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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6119

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (11:35): It is a great pleasure that I rise in support of this motion put forward by the member for Calwell. Back in February, I too, together with the member for Calwell and the member for Grayndler, met with Yalcin Adal and Stavros Tzortzis with the Australian Parliamentary Friends of Cyprus. The chair of the friends group, the member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese, joined with other members—including, as I said, the member for Calwell—to meet with these two young men. Yalcin and Stavros were determined to walk from east to west across Cyprus as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that Cyprus was one country. The walk took 16 days, with over 350 kilometre walked. We know divisions within Cyprus traditionally run across the island. Yalcin and Stavros wanted to challenge those divisions in the name of peace, in the name of co-existence and the name of unification on the island.

They crossed the United Nations buffer zone, the green line, several times during their walk. Those that us who have been to the green line can see the division of the island. We're not talking about a war-torn Middle Eastern country where tragic events are taking place; this is in the EU. This is in the centre of Europe, and it is very sad to see the buffer zone and the green line. As we know, in 1974, the island was occupied and nearly 40 per cent of the island still remains occupied. Since then, a so-called state has been declared, but it has only been recognised by one nation—the nation that invaded—in the entire world. Only they recognise that part of the island. It just happens that—ironically, as I said—only the northern part is recognised, and that is by the nation that invaded. There are still 1,600 people missing. These people still haven't been found. In that 40 per cent of the island, we have homes which owners have not been allowed to return to, and they are still not allowed to return. This walk was a symbol of peace, a symbol that people can work together and a symbol that there can be a just solution.

Many UN resolutions have been called for. They basically have the same principle: respect for human rights and all of the people of the island. Here in Australia we can play a role, as we are doing today. Many members in this House have raised this issue and many of my colleagues in the South Australian parliament have also raised this issue. When you travel to Cyprus, as I have on a number of occasions, both as an individual and as part of delegations representing this parliament, it's an absolute tragedy to see such a wonderful island with such a rich history—the island of Aphrodite, as it was called in the Classical Greek times—divided in two. That is a real pity. I have gone along the green line, I have seen the demilitarised zone that divides the island and I have spoken with Australian UN peacekeeping forces there, from our Australian Federal Police, who have made such a wonderful contribution. They have been there for many, many years. It's a pity that, in 2017, the government saw fit to withdraw them.

We can play a bigger and better role. Of course, not only can we raise this issue here in parliament but, most importantly, Australia can play a role in providing for the implementation of UN resolutions. I know that talks have been taking place recently between the two communities and different nations that have an involvement. We all hope for a just solution very soon. I support the motion put forward by the member for Calwell. It basically talks about congratulating all those involved in the Cyprus peace talks, especially the personal commitment of the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci. Today we have with us in the gallery the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, Martha Mavrommati, as well. I'd like to acknowledge her presence here and the work that she does here in Australia raising these issues and doing all that she can to ensure that we keep this issue on the burner.

The motion also recognises that, even though the 2015-17 Cyprus talks took place between the two compatible and affable leaders that I just spoke about—the rather diligent United Nations discussions that took place—we hope that these discussions continue and that people go back to the table so that we can see that just solution which has been so desperately needed since 1974, since the island was divided. We all hope and pray that one day the communities will live in peace and harmony together.