Australian legislators slam government for failure to denounce Azerbaijan’s illegal closure of Lachin corridor

Legislators from across Australia have written directly to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Penny Wong, raising concern over Australia’s failure to publicly denounce Azerbaijan’s illegal closure of the Berdzor (Lachin) corridor, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

Zali Steggall – the Federal Member for Warringah; Tammy Franks – Leader of the South Australian Greens; Tim James – NSW Member for Willoughby and Michael Pettersson – ACT Member for Yerrabi, are the latest Australian legislators from across numerous jurisdictions to have added their voices to the calls of parliamentary colleagues detailing concern over Azerbaijan’s over 50-day blockade against 120,000 Christian Armenians living in Artsakh.

These letters to the Foreign Minister follow statements made by Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Senator Jordan Steele-John, Jerome Laxale MP, Kylea Tink MP, Sophie Scamps MP, Walt Secord MLC, Jonathan O’Dea MP, Chris Rath MLC, Hugh McDermott MP, Mayor Tanya Taylor, Councillor Kristyn Glanville and Councillor Joseph Rahme.

Zali Steggall, the Federal Member for Warringah, who was among the most recent additions to the Australian Friends of Artsakh network, has written to the Foreign Minister detailing the harsh conditions the people of Artsakh are facing and called on Australia to make immediate representation to the Azerbaijani Ambassador to open the road.

Steggall said: The Azerbaijani regime has cut gas supplies as well as internet access to the region during the blockade and has threatened to shoot down any aircraft carrying emergency humanitarian relief. The blockade has also prevented the freedom of movement of people between the twin Armenian Republics, depriving over 1100 citizens of Artsakh including many children, from returning home and leaving them stranded in neighboring Armenia.”

Tammy Franks, elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in 2010, is a member of the Australian Friends of Artsakh network. Ms Franks’ letter said: “Despite claims that the blockade has been formed by “eco-protestors”, it appears that the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan bears ultimate responsibility.”

“Australia must take action and cannot allow the Aliyev regime callously threaten the lives of Nagorno-Karabakh’s citizens, and must hold Azerbaijan to account for blocking a civilian population’s access to food and basic necessities.” the letter added.

Mr Pettersson was elected to the Territory government in 2016 and has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Armenian National Committee of Australia.

In his letter to the Foreign Minister, Pettersson urged the Federal government to promptly join its allies in condemning Azerbaijan and said: “I hope that Australia will urgently add its respected international voice to help avert the profoundly serious risk of a humanitarian disaster which is unfolding before us. Australia must send a clear message that such actions will not be tolerated by the international community.”

Acknowledging the significant distress of his local Armenian-Australian community in Willoughby, Tim James MP, who is also a member of the Friends of Artsakh network, also called on the Australian government to stand “publicly” with Artsakh.

James said: “Our government must call for the immediate reinstatement of transport and gas connections to avert a humanitarian crisis. I call upon you and the government on behalf of the nation to condemn this blockade by Azerbaijan and urge an immediate cessation of the blockade.”

ANC-AU Executive Director Michael Kolokossian expressed the community’s sincere thanks for voicing their concerns and writing directly to the Foreign Minister.

Kolokossian said: “Legislators from across the country, elected representatives of all major political parties including the Liberal party, Labor party, Greens and Independents are calling on our government to take action. These calls are bi-partisan and are simply aimed at averting a humanitarian crisis,”

“Our government is sitting on its hands as our allies, the USA, Canada and the European Union, take a stand and actively participate in bringing an end to this humanitarian catastrophe. It is heartbreaking for Armenian-Australians, a majority of whom are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and are now witnessing their compatriots in the homeland suffer a similar fate to their ancestors. We expect more from our government,” added Kolokossian.

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