More than 60 people were arrested Thursday during anti-government protests in Armenia’s capital following a peace deal that ended weeks of armed conflict in Upper Karabakh.
Thousands of people gathered in Freedom Square in Yerevan and called on the government to resign at a rally organized by opposition parties.
Among those reportedly arrested were Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, former deputy parliament speakers Ara Sahakian and Eduard Sharmazanov and former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsyan.
Anti-government protests have been held in the country since Azerbaijan and Armenia signed an agreement on Nov. 10 to halt fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meanwhile, In an address to the Armenian people, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said “Armenia and the Armenian people are facing crucial days.”
“There is sorrow in the hearts of all of us, tears in the eyes of all of us, pain in the souls of all of us.
“More than 20,000 Armenian troops and officers could have found themselves surrounded by enemy troops, inevitably facing the prospect of being killed or captured” if the deal had not been signed, he added.
Conflict, peace deal
Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
Fresh clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and the Armenian army continued its attacks on civilian and Azerbaijani forces, even violating humanitarian cease-fire agreements for 44 days.
Baku liberated several cities and nearly 300 of its settlements and villages from Armenian occupation during this time.
Before the second Karabakh war, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
On Nov. 10, the two countries signed a Russia-brokered agreement to end the fighting and work toward a comprehensive solution.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hailed the agreement as a victory for his country and a defeat of Armenia, saying Baku’s military success enabled it to gain an upper hand to end the three-decade-long occupation of its territory.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pashinyan said he had signed an “unspeakably painful” deal that allowed Azerbaijan to claim control over regions it took back in the fighting.
The Turkish leadership also welcomed the truce, terming it a “great victory” for Azerbaijan.
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