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Sarkissian Defends Opposition To Army Chief’s Sacking


Armenia -- President Armen Sarkissian (L) and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meet in Yerevan, November 12, 2020.

President Armen Sarkissian defended on Monday his decision not to fire Armenia’s top army general strongly criticized by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Pashinian petitioned Sarkissian on Thursday to sign a decree relieving General Onik Gasparian of his duties shortly after the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff and 40 other high-ranking officers issued a joint statement that accused the government of misrule and demanded its resignation. Pashinian rejected the demand as a “military coup attempt.”

Sarkissian refused to sign such a decree on Saturday, saying that it appears to be unconstitutional and would deepen the “unprecedented” political crisis in the country.

Pashinian criticized the refusal as “unfounded” and resent his motion to Sarkissian. A senior lawmaker allied to him suggested on Sunday the president himself appears to have violated the constitution and might be impeached because of that.

The Armenian constitution allows the head of state to again reject the proposed decree by Wednesday evening. In that case, he will have to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on its legality.

In a statement issued on Monday, Sarkissian insisted that he acted “impartially” and in strict conformity with the constitution. He also denounced “unacceptable” reactions to his weekend decision.

“The president of the republic does not represent the interests of any political force,” said the statement.

Pashinian held, meanwhile, a meeting of Armenia’s Security Council that discussed the political situation in the country. In a statement, it called on Sarkissian to stop blocking Gasparian’s sacking. It also strongly condemned “all attempts to draw the Armenian Armed Forces into political processes.”

Gasparian, who is a member of the council, was conspicuously absent from the meeting.

Pashinian was due to again rally supporters in Yerevan later on Monday. An alliance of Armenian opposition parties campaigning for his resignation planned to hold another anti-government demonstration elsewhere in the city center at around the same time.

The Homeland Salvation Movement alliance has hailed the military’s demands for Pashinian’s resignation.

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