Armenia opposition calls for Dec. 22 strike to demand PM’s exit over ceasefire deal

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YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia’s opposition called on their supporters on Wednesday to join a national strike on Dec. 22 to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who they accuse of bungling the conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Pashinyan, who swept to power in a peaceful revolution in May 2018, accepted a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal last month to end a bloody conflict between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces over the Nagorno-Karabkh enclave and surrounding areas.

The deal locked in territorial gains for Azerbaijan, sparking protests in Yerevan. He has accepted responsibility for the conflict’s outcome, but declined to resign, ignoring a deadline set by his critics to step down earlier this month. 

Hundreds of opposition demonstrators rallied in Yerevan and chanted for his exit as the deadline passed last week. They have called for snap elections to be held and also put forward a possible interim leader to replace Pashinyan. 

“….We will continue accumulating power so that Tuesday (Dec. 22) becomes decisive,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, one of the opposition leaders, told supporters at a rally in Yerevan where he announced the strike plans. 

On Wednesday, Pashinyan said in an interview with RFE/RL that it was not up to him to call a snap election and that such a move would have to be agreed with other parliamentary parties. 

He said the opposition forces criticising him over the ceasefire deal were the same factions who had demanded his exit in December last year. 

“Essentially, nothing has changed all this time,” he said. 

(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by William Maclean)

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