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Thousands of protesters in Armenia demand the prime minister’s resignation over Azerbaijan dispute

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YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Thousands of protesters in Armenia angered by the government’s decision to hand over control of some border villages to Azerbaijan demonstrated on Friday in the center of the Armenian capital for a second day to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The rally in Yerevan ended in the evening without incident, but the high-ranking Armenian Apostolic Church cleric who is leading the protests vowed that they would continue.

Armenia said in April that it would cede control of some border areas to Azerbaijan. That decision followed the lightning military campaign in September in which Azerbaijan’s military forced ethnic Armenian separatist authorities in the Karabakh region to capitulate.

After Azerbaijan took full control of Karabakh, about 120,000 people fled the region, almost all of its ethnic Armenian population.

Ethnic Armenian fighters backed by Armenian forces had taken control of Karabakh in 1994 at the end of a six-year war. Azerbaijan regained some of the territory in fighting in 2020 that ended in an armistice that brought a Russian peacekeeper force into the region.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the protests’ leader, has called on them to “engage in peaceful acts of disobedience.”

Pashinyan has said Armenia needs to quickly define the border with Azerbaijan to avoid a new round of hostilities. Many residents of Armenia’s border regions have resisted the demarcation effort, seeing it as Azerbaijan’s encroachment on areas they consider their own.