Thursday, 19 October 2017
Statements by Members
In recent weeks leaked data has revealed that Azerbaijan's ruling elite operated a secret $2.9 billion scheme to launder money and pay prominent Europeans, including journalists and politicians. This unfolding scandal shows that the Azerbaijani leadership, already accused by Amnesty International and other NGOs of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruptions and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014 through a network of opaque British companies. Investigations led by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have revealed that these illicit payments, using reputable banks and secret companies, aimed to buy political influence and launder Azerbaijan's international image. Just this week, the ASIO annual report warned that foreign governments have been attempting to shape the opinions of the public and the media in covert influence operations.
New South Wales Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells visited Azerbaijan recently. Upon her return she stated on the public record, 'Australia is a forthright supporter of Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity and strongly supports Azerbaijan's position on Nagorno-Karabakh.' This bold statement rewrites Australian foreign policy and disregards Australia's longstanding support of the OSCE Minsk Group peace efforts for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principles of equal rights and the self-determination of people. I urge the senator to not give in to caviar diplomacy. (Time expired)
On 17 October the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called for a meeting with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to discuss the de-escalation of tensions on the border of the still unrecognised Armenian-populated Republic of Artsakh, previously known as Nagorno-Karabakh.
Since the ceasefire between the two countries in 1994, the OSCE has been responsible for promoting negotiations, ceasefire monitoring and conflict resolution. Three immediate priorities for the de-escalation of tensions have been proposed. The first is the removal of snipers along the line of contact, the second is the increase in the number of OSCE monitors in the region and the third is the establishing of gunfire locator systems as an investigative measurement to determine which side is responsible for future ceasefire violations. These suggestions apply to both sides of the conflict. Armenia is ready to accept the OSCE recommendations; Azerbaijan is not. OSCE suggested that confidence- and security-building measures are a prerequisite for not only the advancement of negotiations but also the stabilisation of the region through deterring future aggression.
As an OSCE Partner for Co-operation, Australia has a role to play in the sharing of norms, commitments and expertise—and Australia has now joined the global leadership in human rights. (Time expired)