Australian Senate questions on Azerbaijan confuse bumbling Foreign Affairs Department [VIDEO]

By ANC Australia | Friday, 15 June 2018

CANBERRA: Under five excruciating minutes of Senate Estimates questioning by high-profile Senator Lee Rhiannon, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has bumbled and stumbled on Australia's positioning on Nagorno Karabakh, which is a dispute between Armenia, the Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

DFAT's First Assistant Secretary of Europe and Latin America Division, Ms Catherine Raper answered Rhiannon's question that shone light on Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells's recent declaration of Australia's support for the petro-dictatorship of Azerbaijan, by stating that "...Australia supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state", while also stating "we're supporters of the OSCE Minsk Group. We do not seek to intervene in the dispute".
ANC-AU Executive Director, Haig Kayserian said this response from a senior DFAT official was "outrageous and unacceptable from someone is such a senior position with DFAT".

"What we witnessed with this answer was 25 seconds of unacceptable and
uninformed contradictions," said Kayserian. "Ms Raper said Australia supports the OSCE Minsk Group, which is where her statement should have started and ended if Australia truly supported the OSCE Minsk Group to bring peace to the region, and it is where her statement should have ended if Australia truly did not seek to intervene in the dispute."

"However, Ms Raper declared DFAT's support for the OSCE, after she had already contradicted the OSCE, by declaring support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity only
and without mentioning support for the other two principles of conflict resolution that are being equally considered by the OSCE Minsk Group, which are the non-use of force and a people's right to self-determination," explained Kayserian.

He added: "Of course, what makes this contradiction even more outrageous is that DFAT's position is a regurgitation of the Azerbaijani dictatorship's
one-sided spin of the OSCE Minsk Process, which brings to question the other part of Ms Raper's response that says 'we do not seek to intervene in the dispute'."

"By its misguided regurgitation of the Azerbaijani dictatorship’s distorted representation of the OSCE Minsk Group’s peace settlement principles in relation to the Artsakh – Azerbaijan conflict, in declaring support for territorial integrity of Azerbaijan only, without mentioning support for the other principles of non-use of force and support for a people's right to self-determination, DFAT is not genuinely supporting the OSCE Minsk group peace process and is indeed intervening in the dispute on behalf of Azerbaijan."

Further to declaring a pro-Azerbaijani position on the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict, Rhiannon exposed
through her questions an apparent lack of proper understanding by DFAT of the autocratic rule by the Aliyev regime of Azerbaijan.

Raper was not sure about the elections being referred to when The Greens' Senator asked a pointy question about Federal Australian MP Craig Kelly's recent praising of Azerbaijan's "democratic" elections that re-elected as President, the son of the country's only former president, Ilham Aliyev with an 85% majority for a record seven-year term in what international observers called a vote in an environment that was not free.

Raper also took Rhiannon's question about the Azerbaijani Laundromat on notice after initially responding with an unrelated repetition of Australia's position on the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict. The Azerbaijani Laundromat is an investigation which proved US$2.9 billion in bribe money paid by Baku to to European politicians and political organisations in order to strengthen the profile of Azerbaijan abroad and cover up human rights abuses in that country.

Rhiannon's final question was in follow-up to that, which was also taken on notice, meaning Raper will respond in writing after investigating further.

Rhiannon asked: "I have another one that you will probably need to take on notice. If you have any information, it would be useful to share it with the hearing. Was any of this money, which is being referred to as the Azeri laundromat scandal, been laundered through Australia? It has been reported that some has been laundered through New Zealand."

Raper responded: "I'm going to have to take that on notice."

ANC-AU's Haig Kayserian commented: "While we wait for these answers, we thank Senator Rhiannon for shining a light on such an important issue concerning the Armenian-Australian community due to its lineage to lands that we now recognise as the Republic of Artsakh."

"We also call on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get
its house in order. We will call out any favouritism towards the corrupt petro-dictatorship of Azerbaijan as unacceptable. Australians expect more than this performance and these policies from the department that is representing the face of Australia on the world stage."