I had the honour of convening a meeting on behalf of the Australia-Cyprus parliamentary friendship group with two Australian friends, Stavros Protz and Yalcin Adal, from Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot backgrounds respectively. These two great friends in Australia are examples of the fact that, in our multicultural nation, people live not just in harmony but with its diversity being a great strength. Stavros and Yalcin began the Journey into Cyprus: East2West initiative. Together, over 16 days beginning on 21 March and ending on 5 April, the two friends walked 400 kilometres through the middle of Cyprus to inspire reconciliation and support for a united island nation. Stavros and Yalcin, having successfully completed their journey, walking up to 30 kilometres a day over very rugged terrain, are here in Canberra today continuing to promote the common interest and harmony between all Cypriots. After reaching the St Hilarion Castle on top of the Kyrenia mountain range in Cyprus, the two friends found a window and announced their wish for the future of the island:
We wish that one day the people of this island regardless of age, colour, ethnicity, gender and religion will be able to live freely.
This echoes the message of a peaceful resolution that I put forward in my first speech to this parliament about Cyprus, way back in 1998. I said this 20 years ago:
What is clear is that the Cypriot people, regardless of their origin, do want a peaceful resolution to this crisis.
The sentiment has been demonstrated in an extraordinary way by these two friends through their East2West initiative. Their journey has quite literally brought the two sides of the conflict together to advocate for a peaceful resolution that has eluded the island nation for far too long.
However, a solution, when it comes, must of course support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, a single legitimate authority on the island: one nation, one citizenship, one international personality, one people. While the nation continues to be divided, its people—both those of Greek-Cypriot background and those of Turkish-Cypriot background—will suffer.
Each year I attend a commemoration of the invasion of Cyprus at the Cyprus Community Club in my own electorate of Grayndler. Each year the crowd gathers and hopes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict that should come sooner rather than later. The journey of Stavros and Yalcin, taken together, has encouraged this peace to be brought forth. They exemplify two courageous people who are saying: ‘Enough is enough.’ It is in the interests of all of the people of Cyprus for the conflict to be resolved, for us to live in harmony side by side, just as people of Greek-Cypriot background and Turkish-Cypriot background live side by side in harmony right here in Australia, particularly in my electorate in the inner west of Sydney. I commend the motion to the House and I pay tribute to these two fine young Australians.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.