The President of Armenia rejects Prime Minister Pashinyan’s order to dismiss the highest army official

Armenian President Armen Sarkisian said on Saturday that he had refused to sign a prime minister’s order to fire the army’s chief of staff and deepen a national political crisis.

The ex-Soviet nation has faced unrest since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a peace agreement in Moscow in November, which sealed a defeat against Azerbaijan after six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The divisions expanded on Thursday as Pashinyan defied the military’s call for resignation, accused the army of attempting a coup and ordered the chief of staff, Onik Gasparyan, to be fired.

On Saturday, President Sarkisian said in a statement that he would not support the firing.

“The President of the Republic, within the limits of his constitutional powers, returned the draft decree with objections,” the presidency said.

It added that the political crisis “can not be solved by frequent staff changes”.

Earlier in the day, 5,000 opposition protesters gathered waving Armenian flags and demanding the resignation of Pashinyan for the third day of driving outside parliament in Yerevan.

Some protesters have set up camp there.

“Today, Pashinyan has no support. I urge the security authorities and the police to join the army, to support the army,” said former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan, who has been appointed by the opposition to replace Pashinyan.

“I am sure the situation will be resolved within two to three days,” he told the audience.

Pashinyan has come under heavy criticism since signing the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal, an ethnic Armenian region that broke away from Azerbaijan’s control during a war in the early 1990s.

The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for many in Armenia, but Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to agree or see his country’s forces suffer even greater losses.

( Jowharwith AFP)