November 20, 2020
YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia’s president appointed a new defence minister on Friday after widespread criticism of the government over a ceasefire that secured advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh following six weeks of fighting.
Decrees published on the presidency website showed President Armen Sarkissian had removed Davit Tonoyan as defence minister, a post he had held since May 2018, and replaced him with Vagharshak Harutyunyan, who held the job from 1999 to 2000.
Thousands of demonstrators have demanded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan quit over the ceasefire that ended the heaviest fighting in decades in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave that is inside Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenians.
Under the Russia-brokered deal, Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leaders are handing over swaths of territory which they had controlled for decades but had been continued to be internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
During the recent fighting, Azeri forces recaptured large chunks of territory that had been lost in a war in the 1990s.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said its forces had entered the Agdam district, an area outside Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian forces had to relinquish under the ceasefire deal.
Pashinyan, who has rejected calls to resign, unveiled a six-month action plan on Wednesday which he said was designed to ensure Armenia’s stability.
Before Tonoyan’s dismissal was announced, an initial report by Armenian newspaper Aravot had said he had tendered his resignation.
(Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan, Andrew Osborn and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Timothy Heritage)