Controversy erupts over Victorian Minister’s attendance at Turkish event

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A letter addressed to Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan has brought to light concerns over Minister Natalie Suleyman‘s attendance at a reception hosted by the Turkish Consulate General in Melbourne. The event, held in honour of Ersin Tatar, leader of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, has sparked controversy and accusations of breaching national protocol.

The letter from the Coordinating Committee for the Cyprus Struggle (SEKA) Victoria, dated May 28, which was seen by The Greek Herald, criticises Suleyman, who serves as the Minister for Veterans, Small Business, and Youth, for participating in the reception and welcoming Tatar.

SEKA Victoria’s representatives, Yiannis Milides and Pavlos Andronikos, highlighted Suleyman’s remarks at the event where she acknowledged the contributions of Turkish Cypriots to Victoria’s multicultural community.

Natalie Suleyman’s attendance to the event hosted by Turkish Consulate General in Melbourne sparked controversy. Photo: Supplied.

“We note that this is not the first time that Minister Natalie Suleyman has breached the constraints which being a member of an Australian Government imposes,” the letter stated. SEKA noted that in 2016, Suleyman made an unauthorised visit to the “parliament” of the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC), a state recognised only by Turkey.

The letter emphasised the historical context of the Cyprus issue, citing the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which led to the occupation of the northern part of the island.

“The Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 targeted civilians as well as soldiers. In essence, it was a land grab, the aim of which was to evict through terror the majority Greek Cypriot inhabitants in the north of the island,” SEKA Victoria explained.

The organisation drew parallels between the invasion of Cyprus and the current situation in Ukraine, stressing the importance of not legitimising foreign aggression and occupation.

“The similarities of the tragic events in Cyprus in 1974 with the tragic events that are taking place now in Ukraine are striking. The official position of both Cyprus and Australia, vis-à-vis illegal occupation, is the same. There is no place for legitimising foreign aggression and occupation, neither in Ukraine, nor in Cyprus,” the letter asserted.

Adding to the controversy, SEKA Victoria criticised Tatar’s use of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance for what they described as misleading publicity photos, suggesting formal recognition of his status.

“It is particularly galling that Mr Tatar has been exploiting our hallowed Shrines of Remembrance in Melbourne and in Canberra to create misleading and deceptive publicity photos where he appears to have been formally recognised,” SEKA Victoria wrote.

Photo: Supplied.

The High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in Australia is expected to write to Premier Allan regarding these developments. SEKA has urged the Premier to make a clear statement disavowing any recognition of the TRNC, to address the concerns of Greek and Cypriot Australians who are distressed by Tatar’s visit and Suleyman’s actions.

“A clear statement from yourself on this matter would go a long way towards soothing the indignation and anger which Greek and Cypriot Australians feel about Mr Tatar’s visit,” the letter concluded.

This is the second letter SEKA Victoria has issued to Premier Allan this month. The previous letter was sent ahead of Tatar’s visit urging the Premier to ignore the visit, citing Australia’s policy of non-recognition of the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC)

As the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus approaches, SEKA’s letter underscores the ongoing sensitivity and unresolved nature of the Cyprus issue. The organisation calls for adherence to Australia’s policy of non-recognition of the TRNC and demands accountability from elected officials to avoid any actions that could be perceived as endorsing illegal occupations.

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