Armenians demand govt pressure on 'genocidal' blockade

Hundreds of Australia's Armenian diaspora have called on the government to increase pressure on Azerbaijan to lift a nine-month blockade over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory that has left thousands starving.

Marching in central Sydney on Friday waving Armenian flags and holding "Aid for Artsakh" placards, the boisterous crowd including many children ended up at the Department of Foreign Affairs office to make their voices heard.

Artsakh is the Armenian name for the landlocked mountainous region in the South Caucasus.

"It took 253 days for this government to wake up to the reality on the ground ... that mothers are losing their unborn children because there is no gas," said John Jack Kajakajian of the Armenian Youth Federation of Australia.

"We implore you and the people in this building to utilise all bilateral and multilateral channels to help bring an end to this genocidal blockade," he said in a message for Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

The community says it received a letter of support from the minister after months of lobbying, affirming the International Court of Justice's ruling.

The UN's top judicial body ordered Azerbaijan earlier this year to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor, Armenia's only access to Nagorno-Karabakh, but has been ignored.

The two former Soviet countries have contested the region for decades with several wars breaking out, mostly recently in 2020.

Azerbaijan wants to bring the approximately 120,000 Armenians living in the breakaway region under its control and has blocked the Lachin corridor since December.

Nanor Shokayan, 27, who has family in the region and visited them last year a few months before the blockade, says they have been struggling to stay alive.

"They're struggling for their daily loaf of bread, struggling for medical care - there's absolutely no food," she told AAP.

"The sad thing is that there's no food but some internet access so when they do connect with us they're seeing the silence of the international community which is very disheartening for them."

Ms Shokoyan compared the ongoing blockade to the first genocide of the 20th century where as many as one million Armenians were killed by Ottoman soldiers.

"The Armenian people have been through one genocide in 1915 ... and what we're seeing today is the continuation of that very genocide on the same group of people."

Earlier in the week, French politicians including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo tried to send an aid convoy but were unsuccessful.

Neither the EU, United States nor Russia have managed to mediate the crisis between the long-feuding neighbours.

with DPA

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