Tuesday, November 10, 2020

From Ian:

Can Biden See What’s at Stake in the Middle East?
The real issues in the immediate future are how the Biden Administration positions American interests vis a vis Iran and, in particular, the JCPOA. Trump’s Iran adviser, Elliott Abrams, was dispatched over the weekend to Israel to engage in a series of meetings and briefings with top Israeli officials, including, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Media reports indicate that, in its final two months, the Trump Administration will issue a barrage of sanctions against Iran in coordination with Saudi Arabia and, likely, other Gulf states. The focus of such sanctions will be to impact the development of the Iranian ballistic missile system and, generally, to frustrate the incoming administration’s instinct to pander to the Iranian regime, a la Obama.

The Iranian economy is on the finest knife-edge, more imperiled than at any time during Obama’s tenure. Perhaps the hope of the Trump Administration is that sharpening the blade a touch more could be lethal and tip the balance, forcing Iranian capitulation on certain civil liberties and human rights issues, and further pressuring the increasingly besieged tyrannical regime in Tehran.

Biden and his team have been very clear regarding their intentions to “reopen” the JCPOA for renewed American leadership and participation pending Iranian compliance with its terms. The incoming administration has also telegraphed a desire to support the realization of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Each of those sweeping positions is code for a radical re-alignment of Mideast geopolitical policy from the Trump years; basically, reverting to the so-called “Obama doctrine”, which was far from a raging success in its eight-year lifespan.

Biden enters the White House at a time when the strategic and commercial alliances in the Middle East have been utterly transformed from what they were four years ago. Among his earliest tests will be whether he understands the gravity and irreversibility of this change. Obama turned his back on traditional U.S. allies in the region, causing a deep mistrust to set in and harden. Biden cannot just walk back into the room and flick the switch. The centrality of Palestinian statehood to Middle Eastern reality was the foundation of Obama’s approach to the region. That “reality” no longer exists. The Gulf states have made clear that they recognize a permanent Israeli presence in the region and urge the Palestinians to do so, too.

Without fresh eyes and policies, Biden risks the humiliation of a very downgraded relevancy in the region. The same old same old just won’t cut it.
Mordechai Kedar: How Israel Should React to President-Elect Biden
One of the realities to which Israel will have to adjust during a Biden administration is that Barack Obama will probably play a role, officially or otherwise, as an advisor on national security or political affairs. This means Israel needs to start having conversations with members of the emerging Biden administration rather than move forward, in the waning days of Trump’s term in office, to achieve goals that the Biden administration will not accept.

It has been suggested that Israel should exploit the remaining months of the Trump presidency to extend sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Doing so would echo the approach of Barack Obama, who, during his own transition out of the Oval Office in December 2016, supported the thoroughly anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334, spurning President-elect Trump’s request that he not do so.

Applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank over the next two months without coordination with the incoming Biden administration might so greatly disturb a Biden administration that pressure could be brought to bear to declare all Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank illegitimate. Implementation of sovereignty could even result in the imposition of US sanctions on Israel (in relation to settlement, sovereignty, or both), a move that would be heartily endorsed by members of Congress of the likes of Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Israel must absorb the fact that the Democratic Party of today is not the same party it was eight years ago. It has become extremist in some ways, a process that intensified sharply in response to Trump’s entry into the White House and accelerated throughout his four-year term in response to his policies, both domestic and foreign. Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel positions have multiplied and increased their grip on Democratic constituencies. Voices are already being heard suggesting the reopening of Palestine Liberation Organization offices in Washington and moving US embassy activities back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

But the most complicated problem with applying sovereignty right now concerns the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, and also (implicitly) Saudi Arabia. These countries will view an Israeli implementation of sovereignty without prior coordination with them as evidence of Israeli fraud, because the excuse to normalize relations with Jerusalem was Israel’s agreement to indefinitely postpone the application of sovereignty in the West Bank. If Israel responds to Trump’s loss by immediately withdrawing from its commitment not to enforce sovereignty, Jerusalem’s new friends will feel it has deceived them. That feeling will surely work against Israeli interests.

A Biden presidency resurrects ’67 lines, Palestinian state - analysis
US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to return to the general, broad concepts held by his predecessors prior to Trump. Biden, who was a long time senator and then served as Obama’s vice president, has long spoken of his opposition to settlement activity.

Like Obama, Biden holds that Area C should be part of a future Palestinian state and that settlement building is a stumbling block to peace. But during the campaign he never fully clarified the nuances of his position. He relied on general statements that rejected any Israeli unilateral annexation plans and called for a halt to settlement activity. Biden has specifically highlighted E1 as a project he would oppose. But it is unclear if he would return to the past policy in which the US expressed displeasure at settlement activity but allowed Israel to continue. Or will he attempt, as Obama did, to pressure Israel to halt all settlement building?

Biden both in his statements and his past actions, has left the door open for the belief that he could accept the blocs or some modified form of them.

He is among the senators that voted for the 2004 Congressional resolution supporting the Bush-Sharon letter guaranteeing Israel that it would not have to withdraw from the blocs.

In an interview with The New York Times in February, he affirmed his support for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, but explained that he supported the Israeli retention of the long time settlements, not defining what he meant.

For the Israeli Right, the setback is enormous, given that this summer Israel seemed to be on the verge of annexation – and now it seems as if that possibility is all but buried.

The degree of Biden’s opposition to the settlements will determine the extent to which they can continue to develop, if at all.

It will also set the counters for one of the potential friction points between Biden and Netanyahu – and ultimately help mark the nature of their relationship.
Trump’s Iran envoy: Biden would have difficulties reviving 2015 nuclear pact
Even though the US is currently alone in sanctioning Iran, the Islamic Republic today is in worse shape than it was in 2013, when the US and other powers started negotiating with it after years of international sanctions, Abrams posited.

“I am actually optimistic — if the pressure that the US has because of the success of the sanctions campaign is utilized,” he said. “The regime is in a situation in which they really need these sanctions lifted. And if we demand changes in their conduct, I don’t think they have another option.”

The Iranian population despises the country’s political leadership, Abrams posited. “As the economy comes under more pressure, the regime understands that this could have a significant political impact inside the country,” he said. “In any situation like this, you build pressure and you build [more] pressure. And then you use it. That was the Biden plan; that is the Trump plan — to enter negotiations with Iran, to use the pressure. I think if the pressure is maintained and used, we’ll see a good outcome.”

Elliott Abrams, US special representative for Iran and Venezuela, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, November 8, 2020. Out of view is David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Israel was the first stop in Abrams’s visit to the region, which will take him to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia later this week. In Jerusalem, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, but was hesitant to discuss in any depth the content of his discussions.

Asked if Washington were to give Israel the green light to take action to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons capability, he replied: “We used to say, in the [George W.] Bush White House: We’re not traffic cops. We don’t give red lights and green lights and yellow lights.”

Abrams recalled that he was present in the White House when Bush and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert discussed the possibility of Jerusalem launching a preemptive military strike on Iran.

“Five presidents of the US, consecutively, have said that they will not permit Iran to get a nuclear weapon. That is also the Israeli position. Not only would that be the position of the next president — whoever will be elected in 2024 will have that position,” he asserted.

Abrams added: “The relationship between the US and Israel is not one in which we play traffic policemen. The US believes that Israel will act responsibly to protect its national security.”

Asked if he believes a Biden administration would urge Netanyahu not to preemptively attack Iran, he refused to comment.
Iran: Mullahs Celebrate What They Hope Will Be the Return To Their Nuclear Bomb
At the beginning, U.S. President Donald J. Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Iran never signed and which paves the way for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

Tehran's diminishing resources have also caused Iranian leaders to cut funds to the Palestinian terror group Hamas and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah. Hamas was forced to introduce "austerity plans" while Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, has also called on his group's fundraising arm "to provide the opportunity for jihad with money and also to help with this ongoing battle."

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has already called for restoring the nuclear deal. It could well be a loss for continuing peace in the region and for finally restoring the violated Iranian people's hoped-for human rights.
Iran offers Arab states 'mafia deal' of security or punishment after Trump
Iran has sought to reach out to its Arab neighbors, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warning them that US President Donald Trump will be leaving in 70 days, but Iran’s regime will remain “forever.” He urged them to realize that “betting on outsiders to provide security is never a good gamble.”

In Arabic and English, he called for dialogue and to work together. The message was clearly aimed at Gulf states and others that are partnered with the US. Iran was offering them an opening, a message: Shift and join us, or suffer in the future – the US will not protect you. This is a kind of carrot-and- stick approach, a mafia don offering protection.

In a long speech quoted by Fars News Agency, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh urged Iran’s neighbors to return to talks with Iran. “The Trump administration has gone in a very wrong direction over the past few years, and the maximum pressure has reached the maximum failure,” he said. “After the martyrdom of [IRGC Quds Force] General [Qasem] Soleimani, Iran resorted to the necessary reactions.”

“Only the language of peace and respect responds to the dignity and civilized people of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said. “It is still time to step back from our failed policies and the inhumane legacy of the United States and the charlatans and bankrupt people who are advising the current US administration. We are looking closely at the actions and careers of the future US administration.”

“We have to rely solely on ourselves, and the only solutions are indigenous... let the logical path of decision-making move forward, and the most dangerous thing is to look at foreign policy from the outside,” he said.
UAE, Bahrain Brace for a Chillier Biden Approach
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will inherit his predecessor’s signature foreign-policy achievement: the historic Abraham Accords that normalized Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Quietly supported by Saudi Arabia, the pact represents a giant stride toward peace and stability in the Middle East. But it contains some built-in limits for Persian Gulf countries, which may find a chillier reception from the Biden administration next year.

Rather than the seductive tune of F-35 stealth fighter sales to the Emiratis that smoothed the road toward UAE-Israel rapprochement under outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, the Biden administration will be talking about uncomfortable subjects like rejoining the Iran nuclear treaty, the region’s record on human rights, and the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. As a candidate in August, Biden praised the Abraham Accords as a “historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East.” Later, though, he said U.S.-Saudi ties require a reassessment, a step that could deter the biggest and wealthiest of the Gulf countries from joining the new diplomatic alignment with Israel.

This would be no surprise for Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s famously pragmatic ruler who was quick to congratulate Biden on his victory on Saturday. Mohammed bin Zayed hedged his bets from the start, recognizing that Trump could be a one-term president, and knows Biden from the time the president-elect served in the Obama administration. The savvy crown prince stayed away from the White House signing ceremony in September, sending his foreign minister to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the peace agreement predictably ignited condemnation from Palestinians. The UAE and Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, have a strong footing in Washington and have for decades nimbly managed productive relationships with both Republicans and Democrats in the Oval Office. While ties with Israel may not advance along the trajectory Trump greased with F-35 sales, the Gulf states have broad agendas beyond fighter jets—and will find ample opportunity for warmer ties with the Biden administration after what is likely to be a transition period.
UAE official: Palestinian leaders are ‘small-time hucksters,’ Iran to blame for regional ills
A member of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council during a recent interview called the Palestinian leadership “small-time hucksters who meddle in the Palestinian cause” and who do not care about the Palestinians at all.

Speaking with Kuwait’s Diwan Al-Mulla Online TV on Oct. 13, Dirar Belhoul al-Falasi said the best example of this was the Palestinians’ rejection of coronavirus aid.

“The UAE sent them aid, but [their leaders] refused to accept it. That is because they don’t care about ordinary Palestinians. They only care about their own interests,” he said.

“If these commodities got it [directly], they wouldn’t be able to get their hands on them, and they wouldn’t be able to trade in them. They are small-time peddlers.”

Another example of this, he said, was P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“When he [Abbas] came here a few years ago, he came with his son. If anyone asked him for a business card, he said he had agents or whatever … are you here for the Palestinians or to promote your companies?”

Hamas, he said, was no better.

“People from the Red Crescent told us that they built a hospital (in Gaza) and they were surprised when … this hospital was for treating Palestinians … people from Hamas fired a rocket from the hospital’s roof so that Israel would bomb this hospital. Just see how low they can go.”
Israel to send first official delegation to Sudan next week — report
Israel is reportedly planning to send its first delegation to Sudan next week for talks between the two countries on the normalization deal establishing diplomatic relations announced last month.

Quoting a source briefed on the provisional itinerary of the trip, Reuters reported that the delegation will leave Israel for Khartoum on Sunday.

Neither Israeli nor Sudanese sources would confirm the report.

On October 23, US President Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start normalizing ties with Israel with the two set to sign deals covering agriculture, trade, aviation and migration.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said at the time that Sudanese and Israeli officials would meet in the coming weeks to discuss a package of cooperation deals to “achieve the mutual interests of the two peoples.”

The normalization deal came after Trump said he was moving to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The delisting opens the door for Sudan to get international loans and aid. Sudan needs these to revive its battered economy and rescue its transition to democracy, following a popular uprising last year that led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Bahraini foreign minister planning visit, Israel announces
Bahrain’s top diplomat, Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, is planning to visit Israel in the near future, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced Tuesday in the Knesset plenary.

Al-Zayani would be the tiny Gulf kingdom’s first minister to publicly visit the Jewish state.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat confirmed that the Bahraini diplomat is planning a visit, but did not provide more details

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry in Bahrain did not confirm that al-Zayani was headed to the Jewish state.

Ashkenazi spontaneously announced al-Zayani’s travel plans during a speech preceding a vote to approve Jerusalem’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Manama, diverting from his prepared remarks.

He thanked the administration of US President Donald Trump for brokering the Israel-Bahrain agreement, adding that we “must also thank the king of Bahrain, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and my counterpart Foreign Minister Al-Zayani), who will soon visit Israel.

“There is potential here to change our future beyond recognition. A new age is before us. An age of a different discourse, of peace and cooperation; of a new path in which there is a connecting line between the countries of the Middle East; a line of trade, tourism, transportation; of partnership and relations between human-being and human-being; between society and society, between business and business; not only between governments,” he said.
UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians Appeals for Money to Pay Salaries
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees announced on Monday that it has run out of money to pay the salaries of its staff across the Middle East, after two years of funding cuts by the United States and some other donors.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said it needed $70 million by the end of the month to pay 28,000 staff in full for November and December.

It also issued an emergency call for donations to avoid the suspension of essential services.

“Despite all of our efforts to raise the resources needed to keep our humanitarian and development programs running, it was with great regret that I informed our staff today that we don’t have sufficient funding at this stage to honor their salaries this month,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.

“If additional funding is not pledged in the next weeks, UNRWA will be forced to defer partial salaries to all staff.”

The agency was badly hit by President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to cut all US funding to UNRWA, which amounted to more than $300 million a year.

The United States was by far the biggest donor to UNRWA, which provides education, health and relief services to around 5.7 million registered refugees.

But there have also been cuts from other donors, including in the Gulf, where some states recently signed US-brokered normalization deals with Israel.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to resume funding to UNRWA, at least partially.

Hezbollah drone downed by IDF on Lebanon border
The IDF brought down a Hezbollah drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon on Tuesday, the IDF reported.

The drone was identified and was tracked during the entire incident and at no point posed a danger to troops or nearby civilian areas, the report said. It was intercepted in the Galilee Panhandle, the northernmost section of the Upper Galilee.

The drone was intercepted by electronic warfare means, Ynet reported. It was collected by the IDF, which is attempting to determine whether the drone was armed or was used for intelligence gathering purposes.

The Northern Command continues to maintain high alert and will not tolerate any violation of Israeli sovereignty, the IDF stated.

Former defense minister Naftali Bennett said it was a severe violation of Israeli sovereignty and should be dealt with immediately.

“Israel cannot be satisfied with strategic defensive tools that allow the terrorist organization to keep growing. Israel can’t accept this kind of threat,” he said.
Veteran Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat Dies After Contracting COVID-19
Saeb Erekat, one of the most experienced and prominent spokesmen for the Palestinian cause over decades of dispute with Israel, died on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19, his family said. He was 65.

“With hearts full of sorrow and pain, and with patience, Erekat’s clan everywhere mourns to the Palestinian Arab people and to the Arab and Muslim nation Saeb Erekat,” his extended family clan posted on Facebook.

Fluent in English as well as his native Arabic, he was a high-profile spokesman for Palestinian leaders such as Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, though never a serious candidate to succeed them.

Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), confirmed on Oct. 8 that he had contracted the coronavirus. Three years earlier he had undergone a lung transplant in the United States that left his immune system compromised.

He died after being hospitalized for weeks in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center. The family said he had died from “complications resulting from contracting coronavirus.”

One of the youngest members of the Palestinian leadership, Erekat was unusual in not having spent decades in exile with Arafat and Abbas, the older generation of his Fatah faction, which dominates the PLO.

Although well known in diplomatic circles across the world and regularly featured in the international media, he was on the second tier of Palestinian politics and diplomacy.
PMW: Saeb Erekat in his own words
For almost three decades, PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat touted himself as a man of peace. In his role as Mr. Peace, Erekat traveled the world to sweet talk the willfully blind with the illusion of the Palestinian moderation, flexibility, and thirst for peace. But at home, in Arabic, Erekat, in his dominant role as Dr. Terror, made his true feelings clearly heard. Support for terrorists, whitewashing terror organizations and terror, threats of violence, rewriting history, and perpetuating libels against Israel, are just some of the views and actions espoused and carried out by Erekat.

While Palestinian Media Watch has often exposed the statements made by Erekat, the following is a special compilation focusing on a number of different themes exposing the true face of Saeb Erekat.

Support for terror and terrorists

The bedrock of Erekat’s terror support is his belief that Palestinian terror organizations and Palestinian terrorists, including mass murderers, are in fact not terrorists at all but rather “fighters for freedom.” For Erekat, internationally designated Palestinian terror organizations who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis and other innocent people - such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others - are not terror organizations, and it is “forbidden” to describe their homicidal actions as terror.

When the EU dared to condition its financial support to Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations on the beneficiaries signing a commitment that no EU funds would be funneled to EU designated terror organizations, Erekat made his fundamental objection clear:

“The Palestinian people's struggle is meant to achieve freedom, independence, and the end of the occupation, settlement, collective punishments, and war crimes, and it is forbidden for anyone and any party that relies on international law and the international bodies to describe this struggle as terror.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 9, 2020]

When referring to Hamas, Erekat has made clear: “I am telling everyone, on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas and the [PLO] Executive Committee, that Hamas is a Palestinian movement, which never was and never will be a terrorist movement.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2014]

PMW: Cash rewards for murdering Israeli children: Over $371,000 paid by the PA for murder of 4 children and 9 adults
Today is the 18th anniversary of the brutal murder of five Israelis in Kibbutz Metzer on November 10, 2002. Among those murdered were Revital Ohayun and her two infant children, five-year-old Matan and four-year-old Noam.

The attack itself was carried out by Palestinian terrorist Sarhan Sarhan. Sarhan was sent to carry out the attack by Muhammad Naifeh ‘Abu Rabia’, a terrorist who is a member of Abbas’ Fatah party.

The attack in Kibbutz Metzer was not the first attack ordered by Naifeh. Just 11 days prior, on Oct. 30, 2002, another terrorist, Tarek Abu Safaqa, carried out a similar attack in the Israeli town of Hirmesh. Abu Safaqa was also sent by Naifeh. Among those murdered were Linoy Sarusi and Haddas Turgeman, both 14 years old.

Naifeh was convicted for his involvement in these and other attacks and was sentenced to 13 consecutive life sentences. Abu Safaqa was killed while trying to flee the scene of the Hirmesh attack. Sarhan was killed in a gun battle with Israeli security forces sent to arrest him in October 2003.

Instead of denouncing the imprisoned and dead terrorists (in PA terminology so-called ”Martyrs”) and their actions, the PA leadership see them as the PA’s soldiers, who are the “best” of the Palestinian people.

As the head of the PA-funded Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, made clear:

“These Martyrs and prisoners are the best of our people.”

[Official PA TV, Oct. 26, 2020]

US Imposes Slew of New Iran-Related Sanctions, in Latest Move to Pressure Tehran Regime
The United States on Tuesday imposed Iran-related sanctions on six companies and four people, accusing the network of supplying sensitive goods to an Iranian military firm in the Trump administration’s latest move to increase pressure on Tehran.

The US Treasury Department in a statement accused the companies and individuals of facilitating the procurement of sensitive goods, including US-origin electronic components, for Iran Communication Industries, an Iranian military firm blacklisted by Washington and the European Union.

The firm produces military communication systems, avionics and missile launchers, among other items, the Treasury said.

Tuesday’s action, taken under an authority that imposes sanctions on weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters, freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

“The Iranian regime utilizes a global network of companies to advance its destabilizing military capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

“The United States will continue to take action against those who help to support the regime’s militarization and proliferation efforts,” he added.
Iran may execute disabled bodybuilder who criticized COVID-19 rule
The Islamic Republic of Iran arrested the country’s Paralympian Reza Tabrizi because he questioned why gyms have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic while religious shrines continue to remain open, according to posts on social media from human rights experts.

Iranian dissident and women’s rights campaigner Masih Alinejad tweeted on Tuesday that “I got this shocking video from Iran. Reza Tabrizi, a disabled athlete, was violently forced into a police car & harassed by plainclothes agents as he struggled to walk. He was arrested for asking why religious shrines are open while gyms are closed during [COVID-19]. He faces death.”

Tabrizi won a silver medal for powerlifting in the 2011 New Zealand World Para Athletics Championships.

He argued on Instagram that it was “hypocritical” to close down gyms in the city of Mashad but still permit pilgrims into the Imam Reza Shrine.

Armenia signs ‘painful’ deal with Azerbaijan, Russia to end conflict
Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a deal with Russia to end weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, after a string of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed region.

The announcement of a full ceasefire from 1 a.m. Tuesday (2100 GMT) sparked outrage in Armenia, with angry protesters storming the government headquarters in Yerevan where they ransacked offices and broke windows.

Crowds also seized control of parliament, calling from inside the chamber for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after he announced the “painful” deal to the end the fighting.

“I have signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on the termination of the Karabakh war,” Pashinyan said, calling the move “unspeakably painful for me personally and for our people.”

“I have taken this decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation,” he added.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said Pashinyan had been left with no choice but to sign the “historic agreement.”

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