Vanetsian and a group of activists of his Fatherland party began the protest on Sunday, urging Armenians to thwart what they say are sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan planned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Armenia’s other major opposition groups backed the move and pledged to take coordinated actions aimed at toppling Pashinian. But they have so far given few details of their promised campaign.
Vanetsian claimed that his sit-in is changing public mood in the country and setting the stage for massive anti-government protests.
“In the last few days I have seen many people in Liberty Square who were disappointed, didn’t like us and the authorities, blamed everyone and were ready to emigrate,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “But people have now realized that they are losing the homeland.”
“Believe me, in a short period of time there will be lots of people in the streets and squares of Armenia who will voice demands and … definitely defend Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh),” he said.
Vanetsian’s party and the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) make up the Pativ Unem bloc, one of the two opposition forces represented in the Armenian parliament. Pativ Unem and the other parliamentary opposition bloc, Hayastan, rallied thousands of supporters in Liberty Square on April 5 to warn Pashinian against agreeing to restore Azerbaijan’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinian met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels the following day for talks hosted by European Council President Charles Michel.
Speaking in the parliament on April 13, the prime minister said the international community is pressing Armenia to “lower a bit the bar on the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status” and recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions to Baku, fuelling more opposition allegations that he has agreed to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.
Some pro-government lawmakers insisted afterwards that Pashinian did not call for the restoration of Azerbaijani control of Karabakh. But they did not say what exactly “lowering the bar” on the territory’s status means.