“There is another invasion right now,” said Photis Photiou, Cyprus Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots, during his visit to Melbourne to attend events commemorating 45 years of Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island.
Pointing to Turkey’s recent violations of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Mr Photiou urged pressure to be exerted on Turkey – especially in light of the upcoming 27 July visit to Australia by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Addressing guests at a luncheon commemorating the atrocities committed on the island on 21 July, 1974, Mr Photiou pointed to the importance of the diaspora.
“Today, we have sent the right message to the government of Australia, as Australia is a big country, and it is very important for this government to support Cyprus as far as human rights are concerned,” he said.
“There are new issues arising now with the fresh provocations of Turkey in our EEZ and the violation of our sovereign rights,” he said, pointing to a new invasion – “not on the land, but on the sea.”
Mr Photiou pointed to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ interest in continuing negotiations for a settlement and the reunification of the island, however the recent provocations stand as a barrier to finding a solution. Critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr Photiou said: “I hope that powers like the United States, Europe, Australia and the UN can push Erdogan so we can have a better outcome.”
Turning his attention to the missing people, he addressed the pain of their families.
“Mothers and fathers are passing away without having the opportunity to have closure; a funeral for their sons and their loved ones,” he said, pointing to 50 per cent of those who disappeared still missing despite the fact that 45 years have passed.
“Unfortunately, Turkey is not cooperating even on a humanitarian level, because the missing persons’ issue is not a political one and has to do with humanitarian pain. They have information about where our people are in their archives that detail where the mass burial sights are located, but they do not give us this information.”
He criticised Turkey’s decision to relocate the remains of missing people in 1992, “and now in the original burial areas we are finding only one or two small pieces of bones to give to relatives.”
Mr Photiou remembered the case of one mother who was given one tooth to bury of her missing child.
Mr Photiou said that Cyprus will do all it can to help the Greek and Cypriot diaspora apply pressure on the government and is meeting with Cypriot groups around Australia during his visit. He visited Brisbane on Friday and will attend events to commemorate the anniversary in Sydney on Sunday.
Sydney: A memorial service in memory of the fallen of Cyprus and a prayer for the missing persons will be held at 10 am on Sunday 21 July at the Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady (242 Cleveland Street, Redfern). This will be followed by a trisagion service at 1.30 pm. A rally for Cyprus will take place via Castlereagh Street, ending at Sydney Town Hall at 483 George Street, Sydney. At 3.30 pm, the Anti-Occupation gathering will take place at the Cyprus Community of NSW and cultural events. Free buses will be available from the Cyprus Community Club (58-76 Stanmore Road, Stanmore) to Martin Place. Buses will depart between 12 pm and 12.34 pm. Return buses will depart from the corner of George and Bathurst Streets.
Melbourne: On 14 August, a peaceful protest will be held outside the Turkish Embassy (24 Albert Rd, South Melbourne) in demand of the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and an end to the Turkish occupation.
Gippsland: On Sunday 28 July, the community will also be hosting a get together from 11.00 am-2.00 pm to network with members of the community, enjoy good food, along with music and dancing. Free to attend.