Thursday, 10 December 2020
I would like to speak today about the situation in Artsakh, a matter of deep concern for thousands of Armenians who call Bennelong home. I had hoped to be delivering this speech in a motion earlier this week, but, unfortunately, it was not selected for debate. Regardless, what is happening in that part of the world is deeply concerning and needs to be called out.
While 2020 has been a horrific year for the whole world, spare a thought for the people of Artsakh, nestled between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who have had the added tragedy of war visited upon them. In September, Azerbaijani troops invaded the area, which is largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians who have lived there for centuries. Azerbaijani troops bombed the capital, and there have been allegations of war crimes committed through attacks on hospitals, churches and schools.
I stood up in this chamber months ago calling for peace in the area. While it is pleasing to see that a ceasefire has been agreed to, it is deeply saddening to see that the conditions this imposes on the local residents of Artsakh are oppressive and short-sighted. Huge areas of Artsakh have been turned over to Azerbaijan, which undermines the territorial integrity of the country. Azerbaijanis aren't happy that they haven't won more land, and Armenians are devastated that their land has been taken. This is not a recipe for long-term peace.
This conflict sounds distant, but, for thousands of Armenians in Bennelong, it is chillingly real. Many have family in Stepanakert or, worse, have family in the convoys of refugees who've had to flee.
A few hundred Armenians came to parliament yesterday to hold a protest against the Australian government's apparent ongoing apathy over the conflict. I joined them in front of the lawn with my friend and colleague Tim Wilson, and together we were pleased to accept a letter, which we have passed on to the government. In Australia, we must do more to condemn the aggression in the area and call for self-determination for the people of Artsakh.
I visited there last year and was impressed by how normal things were. People weren't greedy for expansion or hungry for war. Like everyone else across the world, they just wanted peace and security so that they could live their lives in harmony. This opportunity has been ripped away from them, while the international community has stood by.
Thank you to the Armenian National Committee for your continued activism and support of all Armenians living in Australia. And, most importantly, our hearts go out to everyone with friends and family in Artsakh. This has been a tragic conflict, but there are real concerns that it may be dwarfed by a disastrous peace.