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Tuesday, February 3, 1998 Published at 22:33 GMT

World: Analysis

Armenia: president falls victim to Nagorno Karabakh dispute
image: [ An Armenian militiaman ]
An Armenian militiaman

It's been announced that the president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan has resigned. His resignation came after two days of political drama when his closest political allies deserted him and key ministers turned against him. Here's our regional analyst Tom de Waal.

This has been a devastating few days for the Armenian president as he watched his six-year-old presidency ebb away by the hour.

First, his closest political allies resigned, then his party in parliament disintegrated.

The end when it came was swift and brutal. Bereft of all support, the president read out a short statement on national television, announcing his resignation.

The issues

The crisis arose over the mainly Armenian republic of Nagorno Karabakh, which Armenian forces captured from Azerbaijan four years ago. The president backed a new flexible line on the issue.

He argued for the return of some occupied territory, hoping for a relaxation of economic sanctions on Armenia. But this line was vigorously opposed in Karabakh itself and by many politicians in Armenia.

They believe Armenia is the victor in the war and it should be Azerbaijan which makes a compromise on the status of the disputed republic. Supporters of this tough approach won the backing of the prime minister, Robert Kocharyan, a former president of Nagorno Karabakh.

Velvet coup d'etat

Then Mr Kocharyan and his supporters made their move in what's been described as a 'velvet coup d'etat.'

[ image: Levon Ter-Petrosyan, first democratically elected president of Armenia]
Levon Ter-Petrosyan, first democratically elected president of Armenia
Levon Ter-Petrosyan was Armenia's first democratically elected president in 1991. A sombre intellectual, he was never a popular figure, but until this latest crisis his political skills were second to none both at home and abroad.

His departure leaves a huge gap. The speaker of parliament now takes over until new presidential elections are announced.

The prime minister, Mr Kocharyan, will then be favourite to become the next president. If he does succeed Mr Ter-Petrosyan, that will leave the two sides on the Nagorno Karabakh issue further apart than ever.

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