Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called Saturday for greater military cooperation with Russia, a day after Azerbaijani troops began moving into disputed territory previously held by Armenian separatist forces.
"We hope we can reinforce cooperation with Russia not only in the security sector but also military and technical cooperation," he said, according to his press service.
"Of course, there were hard times before the war but the situation today is even more difficult."
Pashinian was speaking during a meeting in Yerevan with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after Azerbaijani troops Friday moved into the Aghdam district bordering Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a Russian-brokered cease-fire on Nov. 9 after six weeks of fighting over the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the agreement, Azerbaijan will regain control of three districts that have been controlled by Armenian forces since the 1990s.
Around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh under the terms of the deal and Shoigu said Saturday they had secured the return of 7,000 refugees to the territory who were displaced during the recent fighting.
"For us, the main thing is to prevent bloodshed," Shoigu said Saturday. He was part of a major Russian delegation in Yerevan that also included Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov described the visit as a signal of Russia's "support" for Armenian authorities, who have come under growing pressure from the opposition for ceding territory to Azerbaijan.
Armenia replaced its defense minister Friday in an effort to placate demonstrators who stormed government buildings after the deal was announced and have taken to the streets almost daily since.
Minister Davit Tonoyan, who has held the position since May 2018, tendered his resignation on Friday.
The government of Pashinian has come under pressure to quit, with thousands of demonstrators demanding he go following the signing of the cease-fire.
Lavrov said that "attempts to question this agreement both domestically and internationally are unacceptable."
Several thousand people gathered again in Yerevan Saturday to voice their opposition to the deal and demand Pashinian's resignation.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev later Saturday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin personally for Moscow's role in brokering the cease-fire when the Russian delegation visited Baku.
"We also welcome the active negotiations between Russia and Turkey on the creation of a monitoring center to control the cease-fire regime," he said.
Azerbaijan has been pushing for its close ally Turkey to play a central role in the implementation of the agreement, as Ankara pledged full support for Baku. Turkey has welcomed the truce, which is a result of Baku's military successes and has given it an upper hand over Yerevan to resolve the three-decade dispute.
"The Azerbaijani army won a glorious victory and we are moving on to a political settlement of the conflict," Aliyev said.
Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for establishing a joint center to monitor the cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday morning, and the two countries will work together there, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Nov. 11.
Relations between the ex-Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan.
Fresh clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and the Armenian Army continued its attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, even violating humanitarian cease-fire agreements, for 44 days.
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