Australia’s Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham has publicly called for immediate action from Canberra and “emergency funding and expertise” to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis on the ground in Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia following Azerbaijan’s latest lethal attack on many towns in the region, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).
The push by Birmingham on the Albanese Government comes as a record number of seven Australian parliamentarians from the New South Wales and Victorian parliaments are participating in the third Parliamentary Delegation to Armenia, where they are visiting the refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to Azerbaijan’s genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing through blockade and force in recent months.
While Foreign Minister Penny Wong has now condemned Azerbaijan’s blockade and attacks, this will be the beginning of increased calls for aid to help the refudees from Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh).
Birmingham, who publicly called on Azerbaijan to open the Lachin Corridor on the 200th day of Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, released a statement via X (formerly Twitter), which said, “The Coalition urges the Albanese Government to join calls for Azerbaijan to refrain from further hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, deliver on assurances that the rights of residents of Armenian heritage will be protected & allow an independent international observer mission.”
Birmingham also called for Australia to provide much-needed emergency humanitarian aid to the region, saying, “Australia should also join partner nations in contributing towards emergency funding & expertise. The Lachin corridor needs to be fully reopened to enable humanitarian assistance to reach residents, while the many thousands fleeing need support to ensure their health & safety.”
Armenian National Committee of Australia Executive Director, Michael Kolokossian, who is in Armenia with the delegation that was touring historical sites, holding political meetings and taking in the history and culture, said they decided to head for the border town of Goris, which is currently welcoming the influx of refugees from Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia.
“There are Australian citizens currently on the ground in Goris working 24/7 to provide aid to the tens of thousands frantically fleeing before the dictatorship of Azerbaijan takes full control of the region,” Kolokossian said. “This delegation will join them to witness the gravity of the situation. The scenes will be harrowing to swallow, but these politicians are prepared to be a voice for these people who have already lost so much.”
Senator Birmingham’s statement calling for Australian contributions through ‘funding and expertise’ follows on from an announcement made by USAID Chief Samantha Power who is in the border village of Goris and announced $11.5 million in Aid to the people of Artsakh.
“We expect Australia to play its part. 108 years ago, during the Armenian Genocide, Prime Minister Billy Hughes provided free freight on the Commonwealth Steams for the aid raised by everyday Australians at the height of the Armenian Genocide,” Kolokossian added. “This effort has been recognised as Australia’s first major humanitarian relief effort setting up a proud Australian tradition for humanitarian relief, and we are hopeful this legacy and history can be honoured by our current government by once again providing aid to Armenians fleeing their homes from persecution.”
The Australian delegation to Armenia is facilitated by the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) made up of seven Australian parliamentarians from the New South Wales and Victorian Parliaments, led by the Co-Chairs of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Armenia, Hugh McDermott MP and Tim James MP. They are joined by NSW State parliamentary colleagues Mark Coure MP – NSW Member for Oatley, Matt Cross MP – NSW Member for Davidson, Susan Carter – Member of the Legislative Council, as well as two sitting Victorian State MPs, including Kim Wells MP – Victorian Member for Rowville and Ann-Marie Hermans – Member of the Victorian Legislative Council, as well as former federal parliamentarian and former Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, who is of Armenian origin.
The delegation also includes Australian business leaders and members of the ANC-AU National Board and Office.