Canada’s Foreign Affairs Committee hears testimony on Artsakh blockade

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development convened two meetings on Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Artsakh on Jan. 25.

“This was a historic achievement, considering that for the first time, it provided an opportunity for Artsakh state representatives to appear in front of the Canadian Parliament and make the case for the 120,000 besieged Armenians of Artsakh and their struggle to live as they choose,” The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) said in a statement.

The meetings followed last week’s unanimous passage of a motion presented to the committee by Bloc Quebecois’ Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Stéphane Bergeron.

During the first meeting, the ANCC’s Co-President, Shahen Mirakian, testified alongside Dr. Taline Papazian (Lecturer at Sciences Po, École de l’Air), Robert Avetisyan (Republic of Artsakh’s Permanent Representative to the United States and Canada), and Gegham Stepanyan (Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh).

Mirakian provided the committee with a comprehensive understanding of where Armenian Canadians stand on the issue, emphasizing the need for Canada to use its considerable international influence and pressure Azerbaijan to end its genocidal blockade of Artsakh and deter Baku’s ethnic cleansing campaign in the region. Dr. Papazian then provided testimony related to the geopolitical context of the ongoing situation and offered recommendations on how Canada can help end the latest humanitarian catastrophe orchestrated by Azerbaijan.

Robert Avetisyan and Gegham Stepanyan then provided committee members with facts from the ground related to the grave humanitarian consequences and the geopolitical implications of Azerbaijan’s genocidal aggression as well their policy priorities and vision for a free and independent Artsakh.

Olesya Vartanyan (Senior South Caucasus Analyst at the International Crisis Group) and Professor Christopher Waters (Professor of Law at the University of Windsor) shared grounded information on the ongoing situation in Artsakh during the second meeting. They both called for an end to Azerbaijan’s destabilizing efforts and for increased international pressure to find a fair and permanent resolution to the conflict.

“During the second meeting, additional witnesses who appeared in front of the committee spared no effort to disseminate state-sponsored propaganda, unashamedly denying the suffering of the 120,000 innocent Armenians of Artsakh. Both witnesses were thoroughly questioned by committee members and at times, their foreign sponsored talking points were pointedly exposed,” the ANCC said.

In its statement, the ANCC also thanked committee members for their ongoing advocacy and leadership on the issue and said that it remains committed to continuing nationwide advocacy efforts to end Artsakh’s blockade and ensure that people’s voices are heard in the pursuit of a free and independent Artsakh.