Armenia raises Nagorno-Karabakh conflict troop toll to 2,425

Nikolai Karapetyan reacts and presses the cross to his chest, with his car packed as he prepares to abandon his home in the village of Maraga, in the Martakert area, in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. A Russia-brokered cease-fire to halt six weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh stipulated that Armenia turn over control of some areas it holds outside the separatist territory’s borders to Azerbaijan. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenia’s prime minister presented a 15-point “road map” Wednesday aimed at “ensuring democratic stability” in what appeared to be a bid to resolve a political crisis over a truce he signed with Azerbaijan to halt the fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A Russia-brokered cease-fire halted fighting that killed hundreds, possibly thousands, in six weeks, but it stipulated that Armenia turn over control of some areas its holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders to Azerbaijan and angered many Armenians.

Thousands of people have regularly protested in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s ouster. Pashinian brushed off calls to quit, but two of his ministers resigned this week amid the unrest, and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian called for a snap election.

About 7,000 protesters gathered Wednesday in the capital’s Freedom Square. Separately, Pashinian made a brief speech to a rally of about 3,000 supporters, most of them dressed in military gear.

“I promise I will not betray the people,” he said.

Health Minister Arsen Torosian said a new tally showed that 2,425 Armenian forces died in the recent conflict, about 1,000 more than previously reported. Azerbaijan has not revealed its number of military casualties.

In a Facebook statement presenting his “road map” for “ensuring democratic stability in Armenia,” Pashinian once again said that he considers himself “responsible for the situation.”

“I also bear the responsibility for overcoming the situation and ensuring stability and security in the country,” the prime minister said, adding that he was “fully engaged in this work.”

Pashinian’s plan calls for resuming the negotiation process over Nagorno-Karabakh under the auspices of the Minsk Group, which was set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the 1990s to mediate the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The prime minister’s “road map” also envisions returning Nagorno-Karabakh residents who fled the region to their homes, restoring damaged infrastructure in areas that remain under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities, and helping wounded soldiers and the families of those who were killed in the fighting.

Pashinian promised reforms of Armenia’s military and changes to the country’s election regulations, as well as to tackle the coronavirus outbreak and to restore economic activity in his country.

“In June 2021, I will present a report on the implementation of the ‘road map’, and the decision on further actions will be made with the people’s opinion and reaction taken into account,” Pashinian assured.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. The fighting that erupted late September marked the biggest escalation of a decades-old conflict between the two ex-Soviet nations in over a quarter century.