The protesters broke through a police cordon and surrounded the building early in the morning, preventing ministry officials from entering or leaving it for nearly three hours.
“With this blockade we are demonstrating that every working hour inside this building is against our national interests,” said Ishkhan Saghatelian, one of the protest leaders. “We are expressing our outrage by disrupting the work of state agencies.”
Riot police jostled with the crowd at one point. They made one arrest but did not manage to unblock the building’s entrances.
Several opposition parliamentarians entered the ministry’s premises two hours after the start of the blockade. Mobile phone footage circulated by some of them suggested that the building was largely empty.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian was one of the few diplomats encountered by the oppositionists. Safarian pointedly declined to fulfill their demand to publicly declare that Azerbaijan will not regain full control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia’s main opposition groups accused Pashinian of planning to formally recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh before launching the “civil disobedience” campaign on May 1. They doubled down on their accusations following Pashinian’s fresh talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hosted by European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on Sunday.
Michel said after the talks that the two leaders agreed to “advance discussions” on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku. He said he told them that it is “necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed.”
In a statement issued on Monday, the opposition portrayed Michel’s comments as further proof that Yerevan has stopped defending the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination that had long been accepted by the United States, Russia and France.
“Nikol Pashinian is not legitimate and does not have a mandate of Armenia’s citizens’ and the Armenian people to lead our country to new concessions and cater for the Turkish-Azerbaijani agenda,” the statement charged. “Agreements reached with him do not reflect the view of the Armenian people and are null and void.”
Opposition leaders have said that the protests will continue until Pashinian is removed from office. Their next major rally was scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Pashinian and his political allies reject the opposition demands for his resignation. They also accuse the opposition of misrepresenting the prime minister’s policy on the Karabakh conflict.