SYDNEY, Australia—The Armenian National Committee of Australia has announced the historic launch of the Australian Friends of Artsakh—a newly-formed group of 40 prominent Australians, including Federal Ministers and members of parliament, a state premier and fellow state lawmakers, a mayor and councilors, academics, thought leaders, and heads of several religious and community institutions.
The announcement dubbed #MovingMountains was made at the conclusion of a week of key meetings held by a visiting delegation from the Republic of Artsakh, led by Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian and including Member of Artsakh’s Parliament Davit Ishkhanyan and Artsakh Foreign Ministry official Artak Nersisyan, at an event attended by Sydney Armenians.
Artsakh Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan welcomed the establishment of the Australian Friends of Artsakh. The Minister expressed confidence that a similar friendship circle will be launched in Artsakh, which “will serve as a significant channel for cooperation between the two nations.”
ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian hailed the launch.
“To have 40 of the most respected Australian leaders—in politics, in academia and in communities—help us launch this circle of friends for Artsakh is humbling to Armenian-Australians, who treat this issue as a community policy priority,” stated Kayserian. “This is evidence that Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh are on the correct track in their journey towards international recognition, which will ultimately deliver the country the security, peace and prosperity its heroic people support.”
The Federal contingent of signatories is led by Members of Parliament, including Australia’s Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, Shadow Home Affairs Minister Senator Kristina Keneally and Shadow Agriculture & Resources Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
Fitzgibbon is the co-convener of the Armenia-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Union along with the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Aged Care & Sport Trent Zimmerman, who also joined the Australian Friends of Artsakh, along with fellow Chairs of Federal Parliamentary Committees including John Alexander, Julian Leeser, Jason Falinski and Tim Wilson, who is the only Member of Australia’s Federal Parliament with Armenian heritage. Newly elected Federal Parliamentarian Josh Burns is also a friend of Artsakh.
Gladys Berejiklian, who is most prominent among Armenian-Australians as the Premier of Australia’s largest state of New South Wales, leads the list of State Parliamentarians among the inaugural Australian Friends of Artsakh, which also includes Speaker of New South Wales Parliament’s House of Representatives Jonathan O’Dea and his fellow convener of the New South Wales Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, Member of the Legislative Council Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord.
Member of Parliament Dr. Hugh McDermott and Member of the Legislative Council Rev. Fred Nile are also among the current New South Wales parliamentarians to join the group, along with former state political representatives, including Marie Ficarra and Amanda Fazio.
Among other inaugural signatories to the Australian Friends of Artsakh include Ryde City’s Mayor Jerome Laxale and Councilor Sarkis Yedelian, along with several Councilors from Ryde City and Willoughby City.
A number of academics and civil society leaders have signed on to support Artsakh, including Professor Peter Stanley, Dr. Sev Ozdowski, Dr. Panayiotis Diamadis, Dr. Brian Owler, and Chris Crewther.
Leaders of communities and churches also joined the Australian Friends of Artsakh as inaugural signatories, led by the President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council and the President of the Australasian Middle East Christian Apostolic Churches.
ANC-AU handed the Foreign Minister a plaque of the inaugural 40 signatories to the Australian Friends of Artsakh at a Sydney event on Thursday.
The signature by the Australian Friends of Artsakh signals their acceptance of the following call:
“The Armenian National Committee of Australia calls on prominent members of Australian society, members of government and civil society leaders to sign this letter, joining the Australian Friends of Artsakh, which supports the following:
- Upholding the right to self-determination of all peoples, as outlined in the charter of the United Nations, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Helsinki Final Act.
- Promoting the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, supporting the right to the Armenians of the region to self-determination in the Republic of Artsakh.
- Condemning all attempted military or other suppression by force against the fundamental and peaceful human right of self-determination of the indigenous Armenian population of the Republic of Artsakh.”