Australian Government Minister Paul Fletcher Raises Nagorno Karabakh Ethnic Cleansing Concerns in Parliament

By ANC-AU | Thursday, 29 October 2020

CANBERRA: Australia's Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety & the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP has used a speech in the Federal Parliament to raise his concerns at the threat of ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh (Republic of Artsakh), reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

The Member for Bradfield, which covers some Armenian-populated suburbs in Sydney's Upper North Shore, was the first Federal parliamentarian to speak about the Republic of Artsakh's rights to self-determination in 2010, when he told the House of Representatives: "I support the application of the principle of self-determination for Nagorno Karabakh."

In 2019, Minister Fletcher joined the Australian Friends of Artsakh network, which now has over 60 prominent Australians in support of the indigenous Armenian people's rights to self-determination.

In his latest speech to Parliament, Fletcher revisited the history of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh): "In the early 1920s, Stalin placed Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani rule, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union created a vacuum for conflict to escalate in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There was a war from 1988 to 1994, and in 1991 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared themselves an independent state. A ceasefire was reached in 1994, but that has sadly not eliminated hostilities."

On September 27 2020, Turkey-backed Azerbaijani forces launched a full-scale attack along the entire line of contact with the Republic of Artsakh, which has resulted in independent reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemning the dictatorship in Baku for committing war crimes through the use of cluster munitions on the civilian population of capital Stepanakert. Genocide Watch has issued an Emergency Alert on the plight of the Armenians in light of Azerbaijan's aggression.

Fletcher added: "With no sign of the situation improving, this is an exceptionally concerning situation, and there is the very worrying scenario of the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh. The prospect of hundreds of thousands of people being forced from their homes and traditional lands is shocking."

Officials from Turkey and Azerbaijan have said a ceasefire is only possible if Armenians leave Nagorno Karabakh.

"It is very important that this hostility not continue. It's very important that stability be returned," Fletcher said.

Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) Executive Director Haig Kayserian thanked Fletcher for his statement.

"We thank Mr. Paul Fletcher for raising the threat of ethnic cleansing, which does shine a spotlight on the threat of another genocide being faced by the Armenian people by the Neo-Ottoman dictatorships of Turkey and Azerbaijan," said Kayserian.

"This does not mean we will stop calling on the Australian Government and all its ministers to stop referring to this as fighting or conflict, and rather commit to the fact that this existential threat Armenians are facing is due to the belligerent attacks by the expansionist regimes in Ankara and Baku."


Background on Australian Support

The largest legislative chamber of Australia's largest state, the New South Wales Legislative Assembly recognised the Republic of Artsakh, while condemning Turkey and Azerbaijan's attacks on the country's indigenous population.

While the Australian Government has so far played a bystander's role, public support for Armenia and Artsakh has been offered by Australian politicians at all levels of government and public figures, including parliamentary statements by Trent Zimmerman MPJohn Alexander MP and Minister Paul Fletcher MP, along with the co-convenors of the Federal Australia-Armenia Inter-Parliamentary Union, Federal parliamentarians Senator Kristina KeneallyTim Wilson MPJosh Burns MPJason Falinski MP and John Alexander MP, as well as New South Wales Member for Prospect Hugh McDermott MP, who wrote a scathing letter to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Australia. NSW Legislative Assembly Speaker Jonathan O'Dea MP expressed his solidarity with the Republic of Artsakh and Northern Beaches Councillor Vincent De Luca and media broadcaster Jon Dee did the same.

The Australian Greens political party released a statement calling out Azerbaijan and Turkey for their aggression, while the The NSW Young Liberals passed a motion reflecting a similar sentiment. Ryde City Council also released a message declaring solidarity with the Armenian people under attack, while the Greek-AustralianAssyrian-AustralianPontian-Australian and Kurdish-Australian communities were strong in their public support for Armenia and Artsakh. Another strong statement statement of support has been issued by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

The New South Wales Ecumenical Council, which comprises of 16 churches in the state of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, has released a statement calling out Azerbaijan's Turkey-backed attacks on Armenia and Artsakh while calling for diplomatic intervention by the Australian Government.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia have petitioned SBS and petitioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as lobbied the ABC and other networks for their unbalanced coverage of the attacks, as well as advocated for support from Government Ministers, including for an investigation into Australian flights made by a cargo airline owned by the family of Azerbaijan's dictatorship, which has past links to transporting arms and support to terrorist mercenaries in the Middle East.

On Saturday 24 October 2020, a Covid-compliant March for Armenians received end-to-end media coverage as Armenian-Australians were joined by various communities to paint Sydney City red, blue and orange while calling for an end to Australia's silence on Azerbaijan's Turkey-backed attacks against the indigenous Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh.