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Armenia’s PM Pashinayn steps down ahead of snap polls to end political stalemate

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinayn

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced his resignation from the post to pave the way for a snap parliamentary election aimed at defusing a political crisis triggered by last year's war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Pashinyan made the announcement in a live address on his Facebook page on Sunday and said he would continue fulfilling his duties as the prime minister until early polls were held in June.

“According to an agreement with the president and political forces, today I’m stepping down in order to hold early parliamentary polls on June 20,” he said, adding that, “Until holding early elections, I will fully comply with the prime minister’s duties according to the constitution and laws.”

Pashinyan proposed the early parliamentary vote last month and said it was “the best way out of the current internal political situation.”

The Armenian premier has faced mounting calls to resign over what his critics describe as his mishandling of the 2020 conflict with Azerbaijan, including a November 9 ceasefire agreement over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The truce deal, which left Azerbaijan largely in control of the territory, triggered political turmoil in Armenia, with Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan being forced to resign amid growing discontent across the South Caucasus nation.

Moreover, the General Staff of the Armenian army issued a statement in February, signed by the country’s top military officers, demanding that Pashinyan and his government step down.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been populated by ethnic Armenians.

Azerbaijani forces gained the upper hand and retrieved large swathes of land in the recent conflict between the two ex-Soviet republics, which broke out in late September.

On November 9, leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a joint statement on the complete ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, ending weeks of heavy fighting that left thousands of people dead and displaced tens of thousands.

In the Russia-brokered deal, Pashinyan agreed to cede swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to end the fighting.

The 45-year-old has defended his decision in signing the deal to end the war, saying that he had no choice but to agree to the ceasefire or see his country's forces suffer even bigger losses.

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