Armenia has withdrawn from the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest because of a political crisis that has gripped the country since last year’s war with Azerbaijan, its public broadcaster said on Friday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sparked the crisis last November when he agreed a peace deal with Azerbaijan that ended six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region but signed away swathes of territory.
Thousands have taken to the streets in the past week to demand Pashinyan’s resignation over the agreement, which many see as a national humiliation.
On Friday, Armenia’s public television broadcaster said in a statement that the continuing political fallout means the country will not be taking part in this year’s Eurovision, set to be held in the Netherlands in May.
“Recent events, lack of time and other objective circumstances are incompatible with the proper representation of Armenia in the song contest,” it said.
Armenia has previously had spats with Eurovision over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a war in the early 1990s.
Eurovision organizers in 2016 condemned Armenian contestant Iveta Mukuchyan for brandishing the Karabakh flag.
In 2012, Armenia boycotted the song contest when it was hosted by its arch-enemy Azerbaijan.
Despite its reputation as kitsch entertainment, Eurovision has been hit by political rows in the past.
Georgia pulled out in 2009 after its song entry was rejected for making references to Russia’s Vladimir Putin following a war between the two countries the previous year.