House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Armenia, Azerbaijan

12:23 pm

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this afternoon to speak about a matter that is very important to many Australians. I'm talking about the conflict that's currently occurring between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I'm raising this issue about a part of the world that many Australians would not be familiar with because it is an important area of the world for us. I say that for three reasons. Firstly, there is a large diaspora in Australia—tens of thousands of people—who have family and friends who are caught up in this conflict that has already cost hundreds of lives. Secondly, for me, this is an important issue for Australia to take a stand on because I happen to believe that democracies should stand by other democracies. In this case, we have the vibrant democracy of Armenia under attack from its neighbours. Armenian democracy emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union and, in the period since, Armenia, like any new nation, has gone through difficult periods. But we saw, particularly emerging from the velvet revolution that happened a couple of years ago, Armenia find its footing as a very vibrant young democracy. They have a parliament where the average age is about half of our own, it's fair to say. But they have legislators that are committed to dealing with some of the entrenched problems that that nation faces. I believe that we have a responsibility to stand by other democracies—in this case, one that is under attack from its neighbouring authoritarian regime.

Thirdly, the most important reason why Australians should care about this conflict in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh or Astrakhan is that we know that if the Azerbaijani government prevails the world will witness ethnic cleansing, which will put the livelihoods and, in fact, the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents in Nagorno-Karabakh at threat. There can be no doubt that these actions, which have been long foreshadowed by the President of Azerbaijan, have one goal in mind—that is, to see every person of Armenian heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh or Astrakhan forced from their homes, forced from their traditional lands and forced out of that country, one way or the other. And I suspect that the other way will involve the heavy loss of life.

This is a conflict that does impact so many people and I know is of concern to so many Australians. The international community must get involved. It must put pressure on the Azerbaijani government to stop its activities. Of course, they say in war the first loss is that of truth, but the reality is that Armenia had nothing to gain and a hell of a lot to lose by military action against Azerbaijan. So I, therefore, respectfully suggest that this conflict is the result of Azerbaijani actions. It has, as I said earlier, long been the goal of the Azerbaijani president to reclaim by force these territories.

What particularly concerns me is that we have seen other players get involved, particularly the Turkish government and its allies within its community. That has seen, at best, the Turkish government provide moral support for Azerbaijani actions. At worst, there is growing evidence that we are actually seeing Turkish interests supporting the military operations that are underway, potentially including the use of mercenaries from Syria.

This is a dire time, and this military action is being taken quite wrongfully under the cloak of the pandemic. So, we need the international community, not to sit back and hope that the parties will themselves come together but to actively intervene and tell the Azerbaijanis that their actions today simply are unacceptable. We must also be ensuring that the international community is either directly or indirectly not providing military equipment to the Azerbaijani forces to continue to fight the Armenians in the way that they have.

We have to ensure that further loss of life is prevented and that we don't see another tragedy emerge in this very difficult part of the world. The Armenians, over the last century-and-a-half, have already suffered a great deal. We must prevent that at every cost from happening again.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for that excellent speech.