CANBERRA: Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz – the Chair of the Australian Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Senator Richard Di Natale – the Leader of the Australian Greens, and Glenn Davies – the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, lead a group of seven high-profile additions to the growing distinguished membership of the Australian Friends of Artsakh.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) report that Senators Abetz and Di Natale, as well as Archbishop Davies have joined as new members of the group, together with the Hon. John Ajaka – the President of New South Wales Legislative Council, the Hon. Victor Dominello – the New South Wales Customer Service Minister, Councillor Stuart Coppock – City of Willoughby and Councillor Trenton Brown – City of Ryde.

The Australian Friends of Artsakh was launched last month by the ANC-AU with an announcement dubbed #MOVINGMOUNTAINS during the visit by a high-profile delegation from the Republic of Artsakh, led by Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan.

Among the inaugural 40 signatories were Federal Ministers and Parliamentarians, a State Premier and fellow State Parliamentarians, a Mayor and Councillors, academics, thought leaders, and heads of several religious and community institutions – all pledging solidarity to the rights to self-determination of the Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh.

The new additions mean the group now has 47 prominent Australians as signatories.

“Senator Abetz, Senator Di Natale, Archbishop Davies, Mr. Ajaka, Mr. Dominello, Mr. Coppock and Mr. Brown are all welcome additions to the Australian Friends of Artsakh,” said ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian.

“The petro-dictatorship of Azerbaijan, who denies the indigenous Armenians of Artsakh their basic human right to self-determination and independence on their ancestral lands, resorted to propaganda and bullying tactics to try and prevent our leaders from joining in solidarity with this issue,” added Kayserian, referring to official complaints from Baku to Canberra trying to bring Australian leaders into line with the Department of Foreign Affairs’ pro-Azerbaijani position on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Kayserian said: “This high-profile expansion of the Australian Friends of Artsakh shows that the currency of truth and justice wins over the unwelcome interference by a foreign dictatorship into the internal affairs of Australia’s sovereign democracy.”

Senators Abetz and Di Natale join a strong Federal Parliamentary contingent of signatories to the Australian Friends of Artsakh, which includes Australia’s Communications Minister the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Assistant Treasurer the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Shadow Home Affairs Minister the Hon. Senator Kristina Keneally and Shadow Agriculture & Resources Minister the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP.

Fitzgibbon is the co-convenor of the Armenia-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Union along with the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Aged Care & Sport Trent Zimmerman MP, who also joined the Australian Friends of Artsakh, along with fellow Chairs of Federal Parliamentary Committees including John Alexander MP, Julian Leeser MP, Jason Falinski MP and Tim Wilson MP, who is the only Member of Australia’s Federal Parliament with Armenian heritage. Newly elected Federal Parliamentarian Josh Burns MP is also a friend of Artsakh.

President of the Legislative Council the Hon. John Ajaka MLC and Minister for Customer Service the Hon. Victor Dominello MP join the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP – the Premier of Australia’s largest state of New South Wales on the list of State Parliamentarians among the Australian Friends of Artsakh, which also includes Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly the Hon. Jonathan O’Dea MP and his fellow convenor of the NSW Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, Shadow Treasurer the Hon. Walt Secord MLC.

Dr. Hugh McDermott MP and Rev. Fred Nile MLC are also among the current NSW parliamentarians in the group, along with former state political representatives, including Marie Ficarra and Amanda Fazio.

Councillors Coppock and Brown join fellow Local Government representatives who were among the inaugural signatories to the Australian Friends of Artsakh, including Mayor Jerome Laxale, Councillors Sarkis Yedelian and Jordan Lane – from the City of Ryde, and Councillors Hugh Eriksson, Brendan Zhu, Angelo Rozos and Lynne Saville – from the City of Willoughby.

A number of academics and civil society leaders also signed on to support Artsakh, including Professor Peter Stanley, Dr. Sev Ozdowski, Dr. Panayiotis Diamadis, Dr. Brian Owler and Chris Crewther.

Archbishop Glenn Davies joins a series of leaders of communities and churches to join the Australian Friends of Artsakh as signatories.