Delegation of New South Wales politicians visit Armenia with ANC Australia

By | Saturday, 20 July 2013

YEREVAN: A delegation of seven politicians from Australia's largest state of New South Wales (NSW) have paid their respects at Yerevan's Armenian Genocide monument (Dzidzernagapert), met with His Holiness Karekin II (Catholicos of All Armenians) and President Serzh Sargsyan on an historic visit to Armenia, organised by the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia).

Jonathan O'Dea MP, who is the Chair of the NSW Parliament's Friends of Armenia group, was joined on the trip by Marie Ficarra MLC, Amanda Fazio MLC, David Clarke MLC, Fred Nile MLC, Shaoquett Moselmane MLC, and Gladys Berejiklian MP - who is the first Armenian parliamentarian of NSW and the state's current Minister for Transport.

ANC Australia was represented by Honorary Chairman Greg Soghomonian, Executive Director Vache Kahramanian, Board members Stephen Abolakian and Hovig Melkonian, and intern Garineh Torossian. ANC Australia was also joined by several ANC Australia Partners (the organisation's sponsorship program) on this trip.

The delegation was pleased after holding high-level meetings with President Sargsyan, Speaker of the National Assembly Hovik Abrahamyan and local Members of the National Assembly including Vahan Hovhannisyan. The meetings focused on improving relations between NSW and Armenia, the importance of global recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the rights to self-determination for the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh.

The delegation visited all of Armenia's noteworthy tourist attractions, with the headline being an emotional visit to Dzidzernagapert.

NSW was the first Australian legislature to recognise the Armenian Genocide, in April 1997. They also erected a monument within NSW Parliament House in memory of the Armenian Genocide. On May 1 and June 8 of 2013, the NSW Parliament adopted motions recognising the genocides of the Assyrians and Greeks, which also re-confirmed the state's 1997 recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

And over 15 years later, seven members of NSW Parliament, stood to pay their respects at the official Yerevan-based Armenian Genocide Memorial.

Other visits to important sites included the St Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Sartarabad, Garni, Keghart, Sevan, Dilijan, Khor Virap and the St. Hripsime Catehdral. They stayed in Yerevan's city centre.

The delegation also met with Armenia's press, via several media engagements as well as a press conference at the end of their trip.

Nile told the press: "The Armenian Genocide is a historical fact that Turkey should recognise."

The politicians said collectively that Turkey must follow the example of Germany and Australia and apologise for their injustices of the past.

"The key aim of the visit is to provide the parliament members, having made quite a considerable contribution to the advancement of Armenian issues, with the opportunity to see Armenia, get acquainted with the centuries-old Armenian culture and history and, upon their return, to continue their pro-Armenian activities in Australia," said Kahramanian.

NSW - on April 17, 1997 - adopted a motion condemning the massacres that took place in the Ottoman Empire, characterising them as the first Genocide of the 20th century.

Following their Armenia schedule, the delegation visited the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, where they were welcomed by President Bako Sahakyan. Click here to read more about the Nagorno Karabakh leg of their trip.

The following is a video covering the press conference of New South Wales politicians on the Armenian National Committee of Australia delegation to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh: