Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

17 February, 2021

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. I. Pnevmatikos:

That this council—

  1. Notes the actions and belligerence of Azerbaijan towards the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh in commencing military action on 27 September 2020;
  2. Notes the serious concerns that have been raised from Armenian-Australians regarding the existential threat to the indigenous Armenian population of the Republic of Artsakh by this military action and in any attempts by Azerbaijan to prevent the peaceful resettlement of the indigenous Armenian population following the agreement to a provisional ceasefire on 9 November 2020;
  3. Notes the serious concerns raised by Armenian-Australians and independent international organisations regarding the risk of Azerbaijan destroying sites of global cultural and historical significance;
  4. Condemns the actions of President Erdogan of Turkey and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan in their pursuit of a policy of Pan-Turkish nationalism, which has previously led to genocide and which now threatens the Armenian population of Artsakh with ethnic cleansing;
  5. Calls on the federal government to condemn these attacks and advocate for the safety and security of Armenia and Artsakh in the context of international support for a stable and enduring peace settlement;
  6. Recognises the right to self-determination of all peoples including those of the Republic of Artsakh and calls on the federal government to also recognise the Republic of Artsakh as the only permanent solution to the conflict to avoid further attempts of such military aggression.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:43): Today, I rise on behalf the government to make a contribution to the private member's motion moved by the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos. I note that a similar motion was also moved in the House of Assembly during the last sitting week. The Deputy Premier, the Hon. Vickie Chapman, made contributions on behalf the government in the other place.

On 3 February 2021, the House of Assembly passed a motion, following a similar motion that was passed by the New South Wales Parliament in October 2020. I wish to acknowledge the Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, who is a proud Armenian-Australian and a proud Liberal leader. I commend her advocacy on behalf of the Armenian community in New South Wales and congratulate her on her many accomplishments and contributions to Australia.

I acknowledge that many honourable members in this parliament have already covered extensively in both houses in the SA Parliament the origins of the conflicts and recent atrocities. It is clear that the motion seeks to advocate for an enduring, peaceful settlement and resolution of the conflict in the region.

Our State Government has consulted with the Federal Government on this important matter. We understand that the Australian government has put its position in the media and on the public record that the Australian government considers that the ceasefire agreement on 9 November 2020 provides an opportunity for all sides to work towards a permanent settlement of the conflict. The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister urged parties to the conflict and all sides to show restraint and support the efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group to help negotiate a peaceful resolution.

This position is consistent with Australian international partners, where the Australian government calls on both sides to engage with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and work towards a lasting peace resolution. These negotiations should be based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of the non-use of force, territorial integrity and the equal rights and self-determination of people and be guided by the Madrid Principles proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. The conflict should be resolved by negotiations between the parties and not by military means.

I would also like to inform the council that the Australian Government's position on the current humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is that Australia supports calls by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs for Armenia and Azerbaijan to fully implement their obligations under the November ceasefire agreement and encourages all parties to engage with international organisations to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches populations affected by the conflict and promote the protection of cultural and religious heritage.

All these important matters are close to the hearts and minds of the Armenian Australian community here in South Australia. I wish to acknowledge the Armenian community in South Australia and extend our sympathies to those families and loved ones who are traumatised and affected by the conflict. On behalf of the government of South Australia, we note the serious concerns regarding the horrific incidents reported in the disputed territory.

On behalf of the Premier of South Australia and other Members of Parliament, I would like to thank the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia (ACASA), who are here today in the chamber, for bringing this important matter to our attention. The organisation has had a long history in South Australia and was founded in 1960.

Since then, the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia has played an important role in welcoming, uniting and supporting newly arrived Armenians to South Australia. ACASA's executive committee works diligently and meets monthly at the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia offices in Adelaide. Can I extend our sincere thanks to the current president, Ms Elena (or Lena) Gasparyan and immediate past president Ms Anna Amirkhanyan and the committee for their enduring efforts advocating for the Armenian community in South Australia and also the broader community in the region of conflicts.

I wish to thank the Armenian Cultural Association, and also the Greek communities of South Australia—some leaders are here from the Greek community—for raising these serious concerns about the current conflict in the region, and I acknowledge their compassionate advocacy about the grave humanitarian consequences.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with those affected by these tragic circumstances and ongoing conflict, and we extend our prayers to all those in the Armenian-Australian community during this very difficult time. As per my conversation with Lena yesterday, I reassure her that she can always come to my office and talk to the office of Multicultural Affairs about any support and assistance that is required by the Armenian community in South Australia.

I want to sincerely thank the mover of this motion, the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos, for bringing this important motion to the Legislative Council. The community will be comforted and feel supported that this motion will pass the Legislative Council today.