New South Wales State Member for Prospect, Dr Hugh McDermott has called for Australia’s Ambassador to Turkey, Miles Armitage to be “recalled” and “disciplined” following Defence Attaché, Captain Ben Esler’s visit to the currently occupied Republic of Artsakh city of Shushi in August, hosted by Azerbaijan’s autocratic leader Dictator Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).
The propaganda event masquerading as a “reconstruction conference”, which was recently applauded and celebrated by Ambassador Armitage, sparked immediate outcry from Australians of Armenian descent and was communicated by a letter from the peak public affairs body of the Armenian-Australian community demanding answers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
McDermott, who visited Shushi and other parts of the Republic of Artsakh as part of the first Federal-led delegation in 2019, raised this issue whilst condemning Azerbaijan’s latest assault against the sovereign borders of the Republic of Armenia.
“I was deeply saddened when I was made aware of a recent Australian diplomatic mission visiting the city of Shushi, which is presently under Azeri military occupation,” McDermott told the legislative chamber in the parliament of Australia’s largest state.
“In 2018, prior to the occupation, other parliamentarians and I were warned that our visit to the city would lead to my name being placed on a blacklist by the Azerbaijani Government. That blacklisting by a fascist petro-dictatorship is a badge of honour I wear with pride.”
“In August the occupied city of Shushi, which historically has never been considered part of Azerbaijan—even during the Soviet era—was visited by an Australian defence attaché as part of an Azeri?supported propaganda tour of the occupied territory. More disturbingly, those actions were celebrated and applauded by Australia’s ambassador to Turkey. Both of those diplomatic officials should be recalled and disciplined,” McDermott added.
He continued: “That visit has made me question why Australian representatives are supporting a dictatorship like Azerbaijan, which jails hundreds of journalists and where family members are appointed to key positions of power, official election results are announced before citizens have voted and international human rights norms are violated on a daily basis.”
“Furthermore, why are Australian diplomats applauded for visiting territory that was forcefully taken through the use of cluster and white phosphorus munitions, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and attacks on Armenian churches, hospitals, civilian homes and schools? I implore the Australian Government to act. I implore our Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, to join other world leaders and act in defence of the human rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. If we do not, the people of Artsakh will continue to pay a terrible price for our silence,” concluded McDermott.
ANC-AU Executive Director, Michael Kolokossian has thanked McDermott for amplifying the concerns raised in the ANC-AU’s letters to DFAT.
“There is no reasonable excuse for Australia cosying up to a merciless dictator. Australian taxpayer dollars must not be funding diplomatic missions to a country that jails journalists and violates human rights let alone host ‘reconstruction conferences’ aimed at covering up their systematic attempts of cultural genocide,” Kolokossian said.