CANBERRA: The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) has thanked Senator Joe Bullock for correcting the historical record on Nagorno Karabakh with his statement in Australia’s Parliament, and protecting the rights to self-determination of the Armenians in Artsakh.
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Senator Joe Bullock of Western Australia has delivered a speech in Australia’s Senate, blasting the anti-Armenian stance on Nagorno-Karabakh recently expressed by his fellow Federal politician, MP for Cowan, Luke Simpkins.
Simpkins, the Chair of the Azerbaijan Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, recently travelled to Azerbaijan as a guest of the petro-Dictatorship, and has since refused to meet with the Armenian side of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Despite this unbalanced approach, and despite the Australian media questioning his relations with Azerbaijan (click here for info) and his other activities abroad (click here for info), Simpkins has remained steadfast in what the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) has called his “assumed role as the chief communicator of Azeri propaganda in Australia’s Parliament”.
After highlighting the historical background of how Nagorno Karabakh was always Armenian, and explaining the oppressive Azeri regime forcing the Armenians of the region to vote for Independence in a referendum, Bullock said:
“To speak, as the Member for Cowan [Simpkins] has repeatedly done in the other place [House of Representatives], of the ‘illegal occupiers of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan’ is ludicrous. How can a people who have lived continuously in this region for centuries illegally occupy their own land?”
Bullock added: “Furthermore, such uncritical support for Azerbaijan’s absurd demand that this brave little nation commit suicide, dismantle its 25-year-old democracy and hand over its people to the tender mercies of the Azerbaijan government can only serve to strengthen the intransigence of the Azerbaijanis in refusing to recognise the reality of Nagorno-Karabakh’s nationhood.”
“As Nobel Peace prize winner Andrei Sakharov said in November 1989, shortly before his death: ‘For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabakh is a matter of ambition; for the Armenians of Karabakh, it is a matter of life or death’.”
Bullock concluded his powerful address by saying: “[Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister] Joseph Goebbels may have notoriously preferred guns to butter, but the Australian government needs to take care that its efforts to increase exports of butter to Azerbaijan do not result in the Azerbaijanis more confidently turning their guns onto the brave citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
ANC Australia has written to Senator Bullock to thank him for his principled position.
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CALL ON LUKE SIMPKINS TO CORRECT STATEMENT
The letter from ANC Australia can be viewed in full below.
Senator Joe Bullock
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Senator Bullock,
On behalf of the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and the wider Armenian-Australian community, we would like to congratulate you on your recent speech made in the Senate on February 2, 2016. Your principled address defending the rights to self-determination, freedom of expression and democratic liberties of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh were highly commended.
Nagorno-Karabakh is an important issue that needs to be highlighted, particularly because of the continued violence that has been instigated by Azerbaijan on the Contact Line. The OSCE Minsk Group (Co-Chaired by France, Russia and the US) continues to monitor the region in order to bring peace and stability in the South Caucasus. It has been the main presence for peacemaking since the ceasefire in 1994. Whether this can still be referred to as ceasefire violations or outright war, the work of the OSCE has been undermined by Azerbaijan’s involvement with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) due to two pro-Azeri reports on Nagorno-Karabakh being submitted by two Pro-Azeri members, namely Robert Walter from the UK and Milica Markovi? from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The OSCE in a joint statement from James Warlick (US), Pierre Andrieu (France) and Igor Popov (Russia) stressed that the OSCE Minsk Group co-headed by them “remains the only accepted format for negotiations”. They further urged for steps not to be taken “which could undermine the Minsk Group’s mandate from the OSCE in Europe or complicate ongoing negotiations”. PACE ended up rejecting Walter’s report and adopting Markovi?’s report even after substantial warnings from the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
On November 12, 2015, the Obama Administration and the US State Department supported a proposal by US House of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel. What came to be known as the Royce-Engel Proposal was backed by both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Azerbaijan continues to hinder the peace process efforts in the region by not accepting any of the following terms from the Royce-Engel Proposal:
1. The removal of all snipers from the contact line.
2. The placement of OSCE monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.
3. The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor ceasefire violations.
The year 2015 proved to be the worst year of casualties for Armenians since the 1994 ceasefire. A total of 35 soldiers and 3 civilians died as a result of Azerbaijan’s constant ceasefire violations, adding on to the 27 soldiers and 6 civilians killed in 2014. At the end of 2014, the military of Azerbaijan shot down a Nagorno-Karabakh Army Defense helicopter as it was conducting joint military exercises with Armenia’s Armed Forces, even though it never went into Azerbaijan’s airspace.
On December 8, 2015 the Azerbaijan military decided to use a tank to shell Karabakh military positions for the first time since the ceasefire. This violation saw the death of 24 year old Garik Avanesian. Reports suggested that more than 300 mortar shells and 27 rockets had been fired during that day.
In what has also become a regular occurrence, Azerbaijan has a tendency to violate the ceasefire by launching military offensives against Nagorno-Karabakh on the eve of high-level talks between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latest occurrence took place on December 18, 2015 before the two Presidents met in Bern, Switzerland.
Sadly, this year started with tragedy for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. On January 9, 19 year old NKR serviceman, Aramayis Voskanian, became the first casualty on the contact line.
I hope that this latest information I have provided gives you an insight into the latest threats that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have to deal with as they live their day-to-day lives. No innocent civilian should live under the threat of attack from foreign aggressors, especially those who are determined to exercise their rights and believe in the democratic structures put in place to uphold and protect them.
As the peak public affairs committee of the Armenian-Australian community, we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future, and thank you again on behalf of our community, and the proud nations of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.