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Motion on Armenia Artsakh

3 June, 2024:

On 27 March last year I rose in this place to discuss the situation in the Artsakh region of Armenia. I rise today on the same topic in support of the member for Bradfield's motion and to thank him for bringing this issue to the parliament again.

Artsakh was an unrecognised self-governed Armenian region after holding a democratic referendum following the breakdown of the Soviet Union. In that referendum, 99.81 per cent of the population voted for independence from Azerbaijan. There has been ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since. In September 2020, Azerbaijan re-established control over much of Artsakh's territory during a 44-day military assault. The Armenian controlled territory in Artsakh shrank to the local capital area and only some parts of the region surrounding it. Its population consisted of an estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians, who were promised access to Armenia via a single route, the so-called Lachin corridor. On 12 December 2022, Azerbaijan blockaded the Lachin corridor, the road that connects the republic of Artsakh to the Republic of Armenia. Essential supplies of food, water and medicine were blocked. In February 2023, the International Court of Justice ordered provisional measures to ensure that Azerbaijan end the blockade of the Lachin corridor. The order, which has a binding effect, states:

The Republic of Azerbaijan shall … take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.

Tragically, not only has that order not been followed by Azerbaijan but, in September 2023, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive against the self-declared breakaway state of Artsakh. This offensive resulted in nearly the entire population of Artsakh fleeing their homeland for neighbouring countries. Human rights organisations and experts in genocide prevention warned that the region's Armenian population was at risk of being subjected to ethnic cleansing and genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The inaugural prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has labelled the ethnic cleansing of the Artsakh Armenians as the second Armenian genocide, encouraged by the inaction of the international community.

There is a wonderful and vibrant Armenian community in my electorate of Mackellar, where the bilingual Armenian-English AGBU Alexander Primary School is also located. I have had representations from many in their community, including from students from this school. On their behalf, I have in turn made representations to the foreign minister's office about the ongoing crisis and met with foreign affairs department specialists to discuss the matter.

At this time of increasing geopolitical uncertainty, it is important we keep a close eye on the situation in the republic of Artsakh, listen to the international observer groups and provide the Mackellar Armenian community and the rest of the Armenian community inside Australia with as much support and information as possible. There is so much brutality in the world right now. Between Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the military action in Gaza, there is much to distract us from the pain and loss being suffered by the people of Armenia and Artsakh. But we cannot and must not look away.