Armenian President rejects prime ministerial order demanding dismissal of army chief

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian refused to sign a prime ministerial order to dismiss the army’s chief of staff, escalating tensions.

Divisions widened when Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan defied a call by the military to resign, accusing it of an attempted coup and ordering the chief of the general staff, Onik Gasparyan, to be fired.

On Saturday, President Sarkissian said in a statement he would not back the sacking.

“The president of the republic, within the framework of his constitutional powers, returned the draft decree with objections,” the presidency said.

Pashinyan said he will again send a demand for Gasparyan’s resignation. “This decision does not contribute to resolving the situation at all,” he said in a Facebook post.

“I am again sending the petition to dismiss the head of the General Staff to the President of the Republic, expecting that it will be signed in accordance with the established procedure.”

The nation has faced turmoil since PM Pashinyan signed a Russian-brokered peace accord in November, sealing a humiliating defeat to Azerbaijan after six weeks of fierce fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The prime minister said at the time he had no choice but to agree to sign the “unspeakably painful” deal or see his country’s forces suffer even bigger losses.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters  waving Armenian flags have been camping outside the Parliament in the capital, Yerevan for the fourth straight day demanding the prime minister to go.