Senator Simon Birmingham has placed the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) on the hot seat, questioning the Government on its failure to publicly call out Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Republic of Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).
DFAT’s First Assistant Secretary to Europe and Latin America, Chris Cannan, responded to the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister’s questions that shone a light on Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin corridor.
The Senate Estimates questioning was an opportunity to hear the Government’s position first-hand, which through statements released by Foreign Minister Penny Wong and the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT), had thus far failed to point blame at Azerbaijan as the provocateur of the blockade.
Instead, under questioning in parliament, Mr Cannan noted the government’s support for “the UN Secretary general and his call on both sides to de-escalate tensions and ensure freedom and security of movement along the corridor, in line with previously reached agreements”.
Birmingham asked why Australia hasn’t made a public statement, to which Cannan responded with a preference for “direct representation to the governments of concern” and alluded to leaving the issue to be dealt with by the member nations of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Unsatisfied, Birmingham pressed the issue again, leading to a direct response from Foreign Affairs Minister Wong, who conceded she’s “happy to have a look at it and get advice on it”.
ANC-AU Executive Director Michael Kolokossian said the Australian Government’s formal response was disappointing and has frustrated many in the Armenian-Australian community.
“The claim that Australia shouldn’t be adding its well-respected voice to this issue is absurd. Canada, Uruguay and the Netherlands are not members of the OSCE Minsk Group, yet they feel obliged to stand up for the human rights of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh,” said Kolokossian.
“Australia has no geographical proximity to Ukraine, yet it has condemned Russia. Australia has no geographical proximity to Iran, yet it has condemned Tehran. Are the human rights violations of the people of Artsakh not important enough, or is Australia exclusively picking and choosing which human rights violations to speak out against?”
Kolokossian added: “We thank Senator Simon Birmingham, Government MP Jerome Laxale, Opposition Shadow Minister Paul Fletcher and Australian Greens Senator for Victoria Janet Rice for bringing this issue to the forefront of Australian politics over the past two weeks. Our advocacy efforts will continue with our friends in Parliament to ensure we hold the Azerbaijani petro-dictatorship accountable.”