Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Artsakh Blockade

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (15:53): I rise today to speak about the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and in support of the people of Artsakh. I previously spoke about the conflict in February 2021, after there had been several violent border clashes, and progressed a motion that recognised the independence of the Republic of Artsakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an area inhabited almost entirely by ethnic Armenians. The region, which has been a home for Armenians for a millennium, is claimed by the breakaway Republic of Artsakh and is an integral part of historic Armenia. Members of this chamber may remember that in 2020, Azerbaijan launched a series of brutal attacks against the civilian population of Artsakh, leaving 70 per cent of the region occupied, and over the conflict in 2020 thousands were killed and over 100,000 people were displaced.

Last week, I met once again with the Armenian National Committee of Australia, which raised with me their community's ongoing concerns over the plight of their compatriots in Artsakh. On 12 December last year, a group of so-called ecoactivists blocked the Lachin corridor. This is the only land route that links Artsakh to Armenia and to the outside world and is a lifeline for the people of Artsakh.

For over two months now, 120,000 Christian Armenians have been under siege, unable to access basic food supplies, medical supplies and humanitarian relief. Hundreds of Armenians have been cut off from their families. The claims that this is a grassroots ecoactivist movement are dubious. The group is widely recognised to be Azerbaijani military forces masquerading as ecoactivists, protesting illegal mining to cover what is an indefensible blockade.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the USA, Canada, the EU and France have all condemned this brutal and illegal blockade and have called on Azerbaijan to restore freedom of movement and goods along the corridor forthwith. The blockade has triggered a severe humanitarian crisis. Grocery stores are empty, with even the most basic of materials becoming unavailable. Hospitals are turning patients away due to a lack of medical supplies. Natural gas pipelines, electricity and internet services that run through the blockaded Lachin corridor have been cut off by Azerbaijan during a brutal winter in an attempt to suffocate the population.

As agreed to in a ceasefire agreement after the conflict in 2020, the Lachin corridor is controlled by a Russian peacekeeping force. This peacekeeping force has failed to disperse Azerbaijani military personnel. This parliament has a longstanding commitment to supporting the Armenian people, who have suffered for too long at the hands of greater powers in the region. I condemn the inaction of the Russian peacekeeping forces, Azerbaijan's ongoing aggression and all forces that allow this illegal blockade to continue.

The people of Artsakh have the right to live freely in their ancestral homeland. There can be no peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict until this right is respected.