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Armenian PM rejects opposition leader's demand after Putin's warning

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan and his supporters attend a rally in the capital Yerevan on April 26, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Armenia's acting prime minister has rejected talks with opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan after the latter warned that the parliament should either elect him as premier or no other candidate would be elected at all.

A spokesman for PM Karen Karapetyan said Friday he “believes that negotiations where one side dictates the agenda and the other cannot do so, cannot be considered negotiations.”

In reaction, Pashinyan said he would continue to call for anti-government protests and probably boycott any snap parliamentary election unless parliament made him the interim prime minister next week.

"If I am not elected prime minister, then Armenia will not have a prime minister at all," he told a rally in the capital Yerevan on Thursday evening.

His new statements came after the Intefax news agency reported earlier in the day that Pashinyan had met President Armen Sarkissian to discuss a political solution.

The opposition figure has played a key role in leading tens of thousands of people during two weeks of rallies that forced Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to resign on Monday.

The parliament is scheduled to elect a new prime minister on May 1. Armenian politicians have spoken of holding a snap parliamentary election once a new interim premier is in place.

Two weeks of anti-government protests have plunged Armenia, a close Russian ally, into a political crisis amid a decades-long conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the occupation of  Karabakh by Armenian-backed separatists.

Armenian special police forces block a street during an opposition rally in central Yerevan on April 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Russian warning 

Russia has two military bases in the ex-Soviet republic, and Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear in a phone call to Karapetyan on Thursday that Moscow was watching and did not want mob rule.

"It was emphasized that resolving the political crisis in Armenia must take place exclusively through legal means in the framework of the current constitution," the Kremlin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan as he arrives at the Yerevan airport on October 14, 2016. (Getty images) / SP

The Russian president said the crisis needed to be addressed on the basis of legitimate parliamentary elections in 2017.

Pashinyan, however, reacted to Putin’s remarks, saying that results of 2017 election could not be regarded as legitimate.

"It's a misunderstanding," Pashinyan said. "I think it's a wrong interpretation as Russia as well as other countries does not intervene in Armenia's internal affairs."

Pashinyan had said earlier that he had met a Russian official and got reassurance that Moscow would not intervene in Armenia’s internal affairs.

The leader of the Yelk Alliance Faction said “becoming prime minister isn’t the issue,” but putting an end to decades of what he describes as an authoritarian rule and widespread corruption in the tiny country.

Armenia relies heavily on Russia economically. The tiny country, located in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, also buys arms from Moscow.

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