‘Not taking the bait’: Melbourne events for Cyprus reunification to promote peace

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A group dedicated to Cypriot reunification held a meeting on Thursday, June 6, at the Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria (CCMV). The Justice for Cyprus Coordinating Committee (SEKA Victoria) brought together around 16 members who continue to dream, advocate and wait for a unified Cyprus since Turkey’s invasion in 1974.

The recent visit of Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to Australia and upcoming commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the invasion to be held in the city centre on July 21 at 2.30pm, dominated discussions.

Tatar’s visit and community response

“I think the visit [of Tatar] was designed to create conflict, but we didn’t take the bait,” said CCMV President Theo Theophanous.

Prior to the visit, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese informed state and territory leaders that Tatar shouldn’t receive official recognition or meetings, as Australia doesn’t recognise the de-facto state.

“We attempted to warn as many people as possible regarding the potential dangers of this visit,” Theophanous explained.

Cypriot Community of Melbourne and Victoria President Theo Theophanous spoke of his recent visits abroad and updated everyone on upcoming events.
Cypriot Community of Melbourne and Victoria President Theo Theophanous spoke of his recent visits abroad and updated everyone on upcoming events. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.

Tatar spent one night in Melbourne before travelling to Canberra, where he exploited a loophole to lay a wreath with a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus ribbon at the Shrine. The Shrine allows anyone to lay unofficial wreaths outside of designated hours.

“This was an embarrassment,” Theophanous said. “The RSL was notified and removed the ribbon, but not before it was displayed for a period, creating a misleading impression on Tatar’s social media.”

The High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus to Australia, Antonis Sammoutis, along with SEKA and other community groups, sent letters expressing concerns to relevant officials.

A particular focus lies on whether Minister Natalie Suleyman adhered to national protocol by attending a Turkish consular event honouring Tatar. Letters from SEKA President Pavlos Andronikos and Suleyman’s own constituents addressed to Premier Jacinta Allan regarding Suleyman’s actions remain unanswered.

Christos Violaris has spent many years drawing attention to the invasion and is frustrated by all the missed opportunities
Christos Violaris has spent many years drawing attention to the invasion and is frustrated by all the missed opportunities.

Plans for the 50th anniversary

With 40 days until the anniversary, there’s much to organise for events commemorating the Turkish invasion. The focus will not be on violent imagery or trauma, but on promoting the message of Cypriot unification and the Cypriot people’s resilience and desire for a lawful solution.

“Our primary goal is to advocate for a reunified Cyprus,” Theophanous said. “However, there’s a significant amount of work to be done in terms of promotion, media outreach, and preparing informational materials.”

Members looked at the events and messaging behind them
Members looked at the events and messaging behind them.

Theophanous met with Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos to discuss the possibility of a video message. The Minister is also considering a visit to Australia in late September or early October.

“He expressed his appreciation for our efforts and urged us to continue,” Theophanous relayed.

Positive discussions were held with Melbourne City Council’s Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, and events are planned for the city centre, highlighting Cypriot culture and identity. The message of peace will remain central.

GACL President Cathy Alexopoulos will hold a Cypriot Australian poetry evening
GACL President Cathy Alexopoulos will hold a Cypriot Australian poetry evening.
Kristian Raspa of St John's college gave input on how to help younger people understand their identity and history.
Kristian Raspa of St John’s College gave input on how to help younger people understand their identity and history.

The committee is presently working on logistics, security, and event costs. They welcome volunteers who can contact Anastasia Sarakinis on 0416 098 162 or at admin@cypruscommunity.com.au to assist with preparations. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Additional events

  • A church service commemorating the July 9th, 1821 revolution, will be held at the Presentation of Our Lady to the Temple Church in Balwyn, attended by Archbishop Makarios on July 7th.
  • The Greek Australian Cultural League (GACL) is dedicating this year’s Antipodes Magazine to Cyprus and is organising a Greek-Cypriot poetry event at Steps Gallery in Carlton on July 20th, 1.30pm.
  • A screening of “Two Homelands” by director Kay Pavlou is also planned.

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