Opposition supporters have rallied for weeks, urging Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down over the November 10 peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan speaks during his address to the nation in Yerevan, Armenia November 12, 2020.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan speaks during his address to the nation in Yerevan, Armenia November 12, 2020. (Reuters)

Armenia's prime minister has said he was ready to discuss the possibility of holding an early parliamentary election, but rejected opposition demands to step down over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.

Opposition supporters have rallied for weeks, urging Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down over the November 10 peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.

The Russia-brokered agreement ended 44 days of fierce fighting in which the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces.

Pashinyan has defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

He argued on Friday that his critics lack broad public support for their demand.

“I'm not clinging to the prime minister's seat, but I can't carelessly treat the post given to me by the people,” he said on Facebook.

Pashinyan added that he was ready to hold consultations with the nation's political parties to discuss calling an early parliamentary election next year.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan and Armenia swap prisoners after peace deal

Protests underway in Yerevan

Opposition supporters on Friday continued blocking streets in the Armenian capital Yerevan and engaged in occasional scuffles with police.

Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory recognised as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

Heavy fighting that erupted in late September marked the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing more than 5,600 people on both sides.

Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from Armenian occupation during the 44-day conflict.

About 20% of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

The Russia-brokered peace agreement stipulated that Armenia hand over control of some areas it holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders. Azerbaijan also retained control over areas of Nagorno-Karabakh it had taken during the conflict.

The peace deal was celebrated in Azerbaijan as a major triumph, and triggered outrage and mass protests in Armenia.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies