Member of Parliament Paul Fletcher

Australian Lawmakers Unanimously Slam Azerbaijan, Call for Pro-Armenian Measures

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CANBERRA — On Monday, June 3, members from the Australian House of Representatives debated a historic first-ever motion on the Republic of Artsakh, and the MPs unanimously slammed Azerbaijan’s 24-hour military attack against Artsakh and called on Azerbaijan to implement several pro-Armenian measures, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

The motion, championed by Member for Bradfield and Co-Chair of the Australia-Armenia Inter-Parliamentary Union, Paul Fletcher MP, was debated in the Australian Parliament’s Federation Chamber with four speakers, including Member for Bennelong Jerome Laxale MP, Member for Beam David Smith MP, and Member for Mackellar, Dr. Sophie Scamps. All speakers supported the motion.

All four speakers spoke in favor of the motion during the 20-minute debate, unequivocally calling out Azerbaijan’s 24-hour military assault and urging Azerbaijan to release all Armenian political prisoners, allow the right of return for Armenian refugees to Artsakh under international guarantees, to protect Armenian cultural heritage, and for Azerbaijan to withdraw from the sovereign borders of the Republic of Armenia.

In commencing the debate, Fletcher said, “I rise to express my support for the rights to self-determination of the Armenian people in Nagorno Karabakh and the Republic of Artsakh. I condemn the unconscionable attack by Azerbaijan in September 2022, which has caused untold misery and has driven almost all Armenians who formerly lived in Nagorno-Karabakh from their homes.”

Fletcher called on Australia to take a firmer stance to “call for the removal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign borders of Armenia, the right of return for Armenians to Artsakh, the right of return of all Armenian citizens and for Azerbaijan to cease its erasure of the Armenian presence in the region”.

Jerome Laxale, who seconded the motion and is representative of the largest Armenian-Australian community in the country, spoke strongly in support of the motion and said: “The actions of Azerbaijan are ongoing, senseless and unprovoked. They have and continue to cause immense suffering and displacement, and they need to know the world is watching.”

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He added, “Political prisoners need to be released, internationally recognized border must be respected, and ancient cultural sites must be preserved. These are not unreasonable asks.”

Dr. Scamps, who called the actions of Azerbaijan “ethnic cleansing”, referenced the work of scholars, experts in genocide prevention and human rights advocates to make her case and said: “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.”

The final speaker, David Smith, who spoke about the issue of Artsakh on the floor of Parliament for the first time, said, “Azerbaijan willfully ignored their obligation to ensure the population of Nagorno Karabakh was denied food and other essential medications” when discussing the blockade.

Smith importantly acknowledged the work of the Australian Government, which has rightfully called out Azerbaijan on two separate occasions. Smith said, “For the second time now, an Australian Government has recognized Azerbaijan’s belligerent actions first in November 2022, acknowledging Azerbaijan as the responsible party for a specific series of crimes against Armenian prisoners of war and the desecration of Armenian cultural and religious sites and secondly as the instigator of an illegal blockade in violation of international law.”

ANC-AU Executive Director, Michael Kolokossian praised the historic motion and thanked all speakers for their support in debating this issue.

“It is only fitting that the first Federal parliamentarian to speak about the rights of the people of Artsakh back in 2010, Paul Fletcher, championed the first ever motion and debate in the Federal Australian Parliament, slamming Azerbaijan and calling on Azerbaijan to implement several pro-Armenian measures that would ensure the rights and security of Armenians,” Kolokossian said.

“We thank all speakers in this debate who unanimously endorsed the motion, which signaled a clear rejection of Azerbaijan’s genocidal policies against Armenians,” he added. “This motion clearly articulates that Australia and our Parliament stand with Armenian-Australians and the Republic of Armenia in calling out Azerbaijan’s ongoing belligerent actions.”

 

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