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Armenian Foreign Minister Sacked


RUSSIA -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomes his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanian (L) during a meeting in Moscow, October 21, 2020

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he has decided to sack Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian as the Armenian parliament discussed on Monday his administration’s handling of the war with Azerbaijan.

Pashinian gave no clear reason for the move as he spoke at an emergency session of the National Assembly boycotted by opposition lawmakers. He did not say who will replace Mnatsakanian.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian, indicated shortly afterwards that Mnatsakanian himself has decided to step down. She posted on her Facebook page a copy of a letter of resignation signed by Mnatsakanian.

Earlier in the afternoon, Naghdalian publicly contradicted Pashinian’s comments on Shushi (Shusha), Karabakh’s second largest city captured by Azerbaijani forces during the war stopped by a Russian-mediated ceasefire on November 10.

Speaking at a news conference in the morning, the prime minister claimed that peace proposals made by U.S., Russian and French mediators in recent years called for the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Shushi.

“The issue of giving up [Karabakh Armenian control of] Shushi was not raised during any stage of the peace process,” Naghdalian wrote on Facebook.

Mnatsakanian himself did not immediately comment on his unexpected exit. He spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone as recently as on Sunday. They discussed the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

Mnatsakanian, 54, is a career diplomat whom Pashinian appointed as foreign minister after coming to power in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018. He is the first member of the Armenian government to lose his post after the six-week war.

The terms of the truce brokered by Moscow sparked street protests in Yerevan, with Armenian opposition groups accusing Pashinian’s government of capitulating to Azerbaijan and demanding his resignation. They were due to continue the protests on Monday.

Pashinian again rejected the opposition demands. Speaking during the question-and-answer in the parliament, he also skirted a question about the possibility of snap general elections in the country.

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