Armenia”s foreign minister submitted his resignation Monday amid political turmoil following a peace deal with Azerbaijan to end fighting in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Moscow-brokered truce halted the fighting that killed hundreds, possibly thousands, in six weeks, but stipulated that Armenia turn over control of some areas it holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders to Azerbaijan.
The agreement was celebrated in Azerbaijan, but sparked protests in Armenia with thousands of people taking to the streets and demanding that the country’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinian, step down.
Armenian foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s resignation was announced by his spokeswoman Monday after the ministry publicly disagreed with Pashinian over the course of Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks.
Pashinian said during an online news conference earlier Monday that there had been offers to cede Azerbaijani regions Armenia controlled around Nagorno-Karabakh and the city of Shusha, known as Shushi to Armenians.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Naghdalyan quickly retorted on Facebook that giving up Shusha/Shushi was never on the agenda “at any stage” of the peace negotiations.
The resignation of Mnatsakanyan comes as 17 opposition parties and their supporters continue to demand Pashinian’s ouster and amid regular protests in Armenia’s capital.
Russian-brokered truce last week halted the violence after several failed attempts to establish a lasting cease-fire.
The agreement came two days after Azerbaijan, which had made significant advances, announced that it had seized Shusha/Shushi.
Russian peacekeepers have started to deploy to the region — a total of 1,960 of them are to be sent in under a five-year mandate.
The former Soviet states of Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a bloody war over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.
Thousands were killed on both sides. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
The war ended with a truce in 1994, although there has been sporadic violence since then as the conflict remains unresolved.