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Speech at luncheon in honour of His Excellency Mr George Vassiliou, President of the Republic of Cyprus, and Mrs Vassiliou



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Leader o f the O pposition

SPEECH BY

DR JOHN HEWSON MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

AT THE LUNCHEON IN HONOUR OF

HIS EXCELLENCY MR GEORGE VASSILIOU PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

AND MRS VASSILIOU

PARLIAMENT HOUSE 12 DECEMBER 1991

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Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 2774022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

On behalf of the Liberal and National Parties, I am very pleased to support the warm welcome which the Prime Minister has extended to our guests, the President of Cyprus and Mrs Vassiliou.

As fellow members of the Commonwealth for over thirty y e a r s , Australia and Cyprus share important common values and common interests. These are strengthened by historical associations between our peoples which date particularly from the Second World

War and from Australia's involvement in peacekeeping forces in C y p r u s .

But the links between our two countries are much more than a

matter of looking to the p a s t . They are very much a part of the

present and the future.

A vital link, of course, between our two peoples is the

significant number of Australians of Cypriot birth or descent.

Mr President, I know that your visit to our country is being

marked by many celebrations in the Australian Cypriot community and that you and Mrs Vassiliou will be personally involved in many of them.

The Australian Cypriot community has made an important

contribution over many years to the development of Australian society. Its members maintain a close and understandable

interest in events in Cyprus and they have preserved and promoted many aspects of the unique cultural heritage of Cyprus.

But the community has always pursued these interests within the context of its overriding and unifying commitment to Australia. The contribution of its members to Australia, as Australians, has been an invaluable one.

Mr President, the significance of your visit goes well beyond its importance for the Australian Cypriot community. Your presence here today is testimony to the very significant ties between our governments and p e ople.

We, in the Liberal and National Parties, are very pleased that you have been able to make this important visit and we wish to

assure you of a very warm welcome.

Australia and Cyprus are two countries of great physical beauty which takes quite different forms. Australia's physical beauty lies in its vastness and its isolation. The beauty of Cyprus

lies in compactness and its variety.

The physical beauty of Cyprus has always made a deep impression on Australians who have lived and worked there. Even in time of war, that impression could not be erased.

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One of our best-known journalists, Mr David McNicoll, epitomised that memory when he wrote a reflective piece in 1981 on the

fortieth anniversary of his posting to Cyprus with the Australian 7th Division Cavalry Regiment during the Second World War.

Mr McNicoll wrote in the following terms:

"In 1941 I was in the ranks when our unit was despatched to Cyprus, that jewel of the Mediterranean. We couldn't

believe our good fortune - golden beaches, green mountains, friendly people, historic old towns, mysterious castles, and pleasant cool taverns where the wine was cheap and the food was good."

Even amidst the horror of war, sir, the physical beauty of your country left its deep impression on people like David McNicoll and the other Australians who served with him.

And for the thousands of Australians who have visited Cyprus over the intervening years, a similar lasting impression has been m a d e .

Of course, we all look forward to the day when the physical

beauty of Cyprus is matched by a genuine and lasting

reconciliation among all its communities.

Mr President, the Liberal and National Parties remain deeply concerned by the continuing impasse in intercommunal relations in C y p r u s . Our concerns on this issue are based on principles

which have bipartisan support in Australia.

We totally support the Australian Government's condemnation of the Turkish occupation of Northern C yprus.

The basic principle is that, like the Australian Government, the Opposition Parties uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and we do not recognise the declaration of a republic in Northern Cyprus.

This position of the Liberal and National Parties is underpinned by our longstanding and active concern that a solution be found to the current impasse in Cyprus.

We have long supported the efforts made by the United Nations

over many years to resolve the tensions in Cyprus and to achieve the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces.

It was a Liberal/National Party Government in 1964 which first authorised Australian involvement in the UN Force in Cyprus - an involvement which continues to the present day. Over many years those Australians serving with the UN Force in Cyprus have

performed a difficult task with great responsibility and

dedication. And I take this opportunity to commend them for

their valuable work.