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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6117


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (11:30): I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges peace, re-unification and reconciliation in Cyprus through the progress achieved during 2015-2017 United Nations-sponsored Cyprus peace talks, including the framework set out by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres;

(2) congratulates all those involved in the Cyprus peace talks, especially the personal commitment by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci;

(3) expresses full support for the United Nations Secretary-General's Good Offices in Cyprus, and supports the resumption of negotiations at the parties' earliest convenience;

(4) recognises that even though the 2015-17 Cyprus talks took place between two compatible and affable leaders and a rather diligent United Nations, Mont Pelerin, Geneva and Crans-Montana reminded us that the difficulty in constructing a new peace paradigm in Cyprus is not only exacerbated by inter-communal division, but is also vulnerable to external, regional and international tensions;

(5) reaffirms its support for an enduring, peaceful, comprehensive and just settlement based on the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, and encourages all parties to sustain their commitment to the reunification of Cyprus;

(6) realises that many Cypriots have fled to Australia over the last six decades and the Cypriot diaspora in Australia can make a positive contribution to peacebuilding efforts in their former homeland;

(7) welcomes the bicommunal contacts, engagement and exchanges, resulting from the continued crossings at the Green Line, as evidenced by the work of the Cyprus Academic Dialogue, the Bicommunal Kyrenia Initiative, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the Home for Cooperation and others;

(8) congratulates the grasswork action by two Australian friends of Cypriot background, Yalcin Adal and Stavros Protz (Tzortzis), for their 16 day, 350 km Cyprus East2West walk from 21 March to 6 April 2018, as a symbolic gesture of reunification, peace, hope, reconciliation and friendship, and all those who supported such an endeavour, especially our High Commission in Nicosia; and

(9) calls on the Government to continue its support of the peacemaking efforts in Cyprus including considering re-appointing a special envoy on Cyprus to promote dialogue, peace and reconciliation.

It's a pleasure to be moving this very important motion today on peace, reunification and reconciliation in Cyprus, especially given that just a few days ago we marked the UN international day for refugees and thousands of Cypriot refugees remain dispossessed and still unable to return to their ancestral homes. The capital, Nicosia, remains divided by the green line, separating both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his last report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus reminds us that, as far as the Cyprus peace efforts are concerned, we find ourselves in a 'period for reflection'. This came after two years of intense and strenuous negotiations by two affable, committed and sincere Cypriot leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, aided by the good offices of the UN to reach a comprehensive settlement. Despite much progress on a series of core issues, the negotiations stalled in Crans-Montana last June, ostensibly over security and guarantees, which also involves Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.

For all of us who over the years and decades have been associated with the plight of Cyprus and who advocate for a free, reunified, sovereign, democratic and independent Cyprus, we stand firm in our continued commitment to support and aid with whatever resources we have at our disposal those who are genuinely committed to reaching a peaceful, humane, fair, just and viable solution for the Cyprus problem. But formal negotiations in officialdom by themselves are not sufficient to bring about change and counter the politics of fear, hate and uncertainty. They often require backing and encouragement from civil society and even from the most unlikely of quarters.

One such symbolic gesture of hope, reconciliation and reunification came from two Australian friends, one of Turkish Cypriot background—Yalcin Adal, who is here in the gallery with his father, Halil Adal, and his younger brother Yener Adal—and the other of Greek Cypriot background: Stavros Protz, who unfortunately could not join us here today in Canberra because, sadly, his mother, Maria Georges, passed away in Melbourne just a few days ago. Our sincere condolences to Stavros and his family. I'm sure he is here with us in spirit today.

I'd like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery today of the High Commissioner of Cyprus, Ms Martha Mavrommati, and the Cyprus consul, Mr Vakis Zissimos. I want to welcome them both to the Australian parliament.

Inspired by British travel author Colin Thubron and his book Journey into Cyprus of the early 1970s, Yalcin and Stavros sought to emulate Thubron's pre-1974 walk by sending a message that irrespective of the history of division, for these two mates who have become brothers Cyprus has no boundaries, no barriers, no minefields, no checkpoints, no green lines, no ghost towns and no lost homelands. They walked across the width of Cyprus from east to west for 16 days over 350 kilometres between 21 March and 13 April this year. Theirs was a mission of peace and the experience life-changing. There were many highlights and memorable moments along the way as the local Cypriots followed and embraced with enthusiasm the journey of the two Australians. Midway through the journey, they stopped for a tree-planting ceremony at the Home for Cooperation in the buffer zone on 31 March. Yalcin and Stavros planted an indigenous myrtle tree known for its spiritual healing properties in the hope it will help to heal the beloved island of Cyprus.

On their behalf I would like to thank all those who assisted and were involved in the tree-planting process in both its selection and day of planting. Of special significance was the involvement of my parliamentary colleagues who Yalcin and Stavros met here in Canberra prior to their departure: Senator Pat Dodson, the federal member for Barton, the member for Hindmarsh, the member for Grayndler and, of course, our Australian High Commissioner for Cyprus, Mr Alan Sweetman, for all of his on-the-ground support, including digging the hole for the tree to be planted in.

Australia has been proactive in the involvement in Cyprus. Australian Federal Police have had the longest continuous presence in Cyprus, from 1964 until their departure in 2017 after 53 years. Australia supports the establishment of the bi-communal NGO Cyprus Academic Dialogue and the citizens' diplomacy program, instituted in 2010 during the Rudd-Gillard Labor government and a project that our Australian High Commission in Cyprus continues to support today under the present government. This is what we Australians do and we do best. Our distinctive, down-to-earth political acumen is to try to find practical solutions to what appear to be insurmountable problems. Inspired by Yalcin and Stavros' Journey into Cyprus: East2West, this motion proposes a simple, practical measure to the Australian government: to action its continued bipartisan support for the peacemaking efforts in Cyprus by reappointing a special envoy on Cyprus to actively promote dialogue, peace and reconciliation. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Conroy: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.