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30 NOVEMBER 2023

Mr Speaker,

In recent weeks, the world’s attention has been rightly focused on the aftermath of the Hamas Terror Attacks on Israel.

We also see in Putin’s war on Ukraine, autocrats and dictators are seeking to enforce their will on others.

Less remarked upon but just as important – the Armenian people are witnessing a new era of genocidal crimes against them.

In 2020 the Azerbaijan dictator, Aliyev launched a premeditated attack on the Republic of Artsakh.

Azerbaijan used drones, targeted civilians and destroyed community gathering points such as schools and churches.

This targeting of Armenian churches in Artsakh mirrors activity undertaken a century ago during the Armenian Genocide.

And Azerbaijan executed POWs and deployed illegal white phosphorus bombs. They are bombs that melt skin.

The 2020 attack was a forerunner of what was to come.

In December last year, a group of Azerbaijanis blocked the Lachin corridor which is the lifeline road that connects Armenia to Artsakh.

The goal was clear: starve the people of food, medicine, supplies and gas.

In February, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to open the corridor. They refused.

As an International Criminal Court prosecutor remarked “starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon”.

On September 19 this year, following a 10-month blockade, Azerbaijan undertook a 24-hour military assault.

It was a final choke.

And the choice before the people of Artsakh was stark: leave or die.

Or put another away: genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Over 100,000 indigenous Armenians fled their homes.

Leaving everything: homes, clothing, pets, and memories.

Taking little more than the clothes on their backs.

Old people leaving their only world, and children leaving the security of their homes.

Fewer than 1,000 people remain in Artsakh – and for the first time in 5,000 years, the region has been emptied of its Armenian inhabitants.

All through the terrible actions of past years, we see the invisible hand of the Turkish dictator Erdoğan.

And the evidence is, he stands in wait for a full-scale war on Armenia.

My hope is that Turkey, as well as Azerbaijan, step back from the brink.

That starts with the release of political prisoners, hostages and POWs held by Azerbaijan.

And it must include the right of ethnic Armenians to return home to Artsakh.

Mr Speaker,

Solidarity matters.

Words matter, because they sustain hope.

And I stand with my Armenian friends, as so many Australians do.

I commend the Armenian National Committee of Australia for its work highlighting what has been happening in Artsakh.

It was wonderful to meet the Committee’s Youth Advocates recently.

I met with Vache Kechichian,

Noobar Chahinian,

Sebastian Majarian,

Maral Keerfork

and Isabelle Parazyan recently.

They are purposeful, passionate and optimistic, and a reminder of a wonderful multicultural Australian community.

It is right that we acknowledge our great friends in the Armenian people.

We stand in solidarity with the Republic of Artsakh.

May the people of Artsakh be free to return safely to their homes soon.

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