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Constituency Statement: Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
Thank you Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Many Armenian Australians live in and around my electorate of Bradfield on Sydney’s North Shore, and of course in the Deputy Speaker’s electorate of North Sydney. In fact there are around 50,000 Armenians living in Australia, around 40,000 of those live across Bradfield, Bennelong and North Sydney, and Armenian Australians have made an enormous contribution to Australian life and are prominent in many areas of commerce, trade and politics. I welcome the fact that the modern Armenia is a vibrant democracy, having come through a challenging period of transition following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I want to speak today about events in Nagorno-Karabakh, where hundreds of thousands of Armenians live. In the early 1920’s Stalin placed Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani rule, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union created a vacuum for conflict to escalate in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. 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.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is mediating efforts to negotiate a full settlement and the Australian Government supports those efforts.
On 27 September, fighting broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces along the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then fighting has increased in severity despite a temporary ceasefire between 10 and 13 October. Already hundreds have been killed and many more displaced from their homes 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. I fervently trust and hope that that outcome does not materialise. I call on parties to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh to return to the OSCE Minsk group peace process and respect the terms of the ceasefire agreement of 10 October.
I acknowledge the extraordinary contribution made to Australia by Armenian Australians in my electorate and in many other parts of Australia. I note the important work of Mr Haig Kayserian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, and I commend the Armenian National Committee for its efforts to raise awareness of this extremely troubling conflict in Australia and I join with them and with all who are calling for all parties to return to the OSCE Minsk group peace process and to respect the terms of the ceasefire agreement. It is very important that this hostility not continue. It’s very important that stability be returned.