Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong questioned Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) officials if there was “an active decision not to” release a public statement condemning Azerbaijan’s continuing invasion of the sovereign territories of the Republic of Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).
In light of statements released by human rights organisations, the United States and the European Union, Wong questioned where the Australian Government was positioned on the issue during Senate Estimates in Parliament.
Senator Wong asked: “Freedom House issued a statement a couple of weeks ago, saying it was ‘deeply concerned by the reports of dehumanising treatment and abuse, including torture, of Armenians captured and detained by Azerbaijan after the recent armed conflict’. The European Union has called for ‘the immediate and unconditional release of Armenian prisoners of war’. The US State Department issued a statement just a few days ago, also calling for release and reasserting the importance of observing obligations under international human rights law. Has the Australian government issued any similar statements?”
In response, First Assistant Secretary of DFAT John Geering confirmed the Government hasn’t issued a statement, but has “made representations to both governments, and those representations cover our concerns about the violations of the ceasefire”, before launching into another concerning episode of falsely equivocating the positions of invading force, Azerbaijan, and the invaded Armenia.
Geering said: “Since the Russian ceasefire arrangement, there have been multiple accusations by both sides about the border. As you’d be aware, there are issues around demarcation of the border which go back to how the Soviet republics were originally set up, and that has been an issue in itself. On both sides, there have been accusations. The more dramatic public ones, as you’d be aware, resulted, in one case, in the death of an Armenian soldier and the capture of six Armenian soldiers recently, and so on.”
“We have always said—and you would be aware of testimony we have put before this committee over a number of years—that our view is that the best organisation to solve this is the OSCE Minsk Group, which is led by the French, Russians and Americans. They are the most active on this in terms of their declaratory policy. We have not sought active involvement in it. Therefore, we have recommended a less publicly strong stance on it,” Geering added.
When pressed on the issue by Wong, who said “standing up for the rights of these prisoners of war would be consistent with our position on international law”, Minister Payne appeared to correct her bureaucrat’s recommendation to remain silent on the injustices being faced by Armenia, hinting that her Government may consider a statement.
“It’s not a decision not to,” Payne said. “The US statement you referred to, I think, was made just last week. That’s a matter which we’re reviewing.”