Armenia detains scores of Azerbaijan land deal protesters


Monday, 13 May 2024 (16:03 IST)
Armenian police on Monday said they had detained at least 88 people who were attempting to block streets in the country's capital in protests at government plans to concede land to Azerbaijan.

Armenia has conceded to handing over territory it has controlled since the 1990s and has embarked on border delimitation efforts, in a bid to secure an elusive peace deal.

What's behind the protests?

Protesters are upset at Prime Minister Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's decision last month to hand over several uninhabited border villages to Azerbaijan.

Both sides said it was an important milestone as they move toward a peace deal after fighting two wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The decision has angered many inside Armenia and opposition parties in the parliament say they will try to begin impeachment proceedings against Pashinyan.

But the prime minister's Civil Contract party still maintains a majority there, and it appears unlikely to break with him.

A senior Armenian cleric, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, led protesters to Yerevan last week after walking for several days for a distance of some 100 miles (160 km) from a village in the country's northeast.

At a rally of thousands of supporters, Galstanyan called for Pashinyan's resignation. He encouraged participants to begin acts of civil disobedience seeking to topple the government.

Why are there land concessions?

Armenia and Azerbaijan had been locked in a stand-off over disputed territory, primarily the Nagorno-Karabakh region— an ethnically-Armenian majority enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan for decades.

Azerbaijan regained some of the territory in fighting in 2020. As part of a Moscow-brokered cease-fire agreement between Baku and Yerevan, Russia deployed a 2,000-strong peacekeeping force to the region. Those troops left Nagorno-Karabakh last month.

In September 2023, Azerbaijan reclaimed the disputed region in a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists who had controlled it since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It prompted a rapid exodus of almost all of the territory's Armenian inhabitants.

Both countries have since been part of renewed attempts at peace. As part of that, Pashinyan has agreed to cede control of the four Azerbaijani villages in the Tavush region that Armenia's forces took in the 1990s.(AFP, Reuters)

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