The Cypriot community in NSW and across Australia are “appalled” after the NSW Liberal Holsworthy MP Tina Ayyad attended a 40th celebration of Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus.

As reported by The Australian, the Cypriot High Commission was “deeply offended” and “greatly concerned” after hearing that attended the event.

High Commissioner Antonis Sammoutis was set to write to NSW parliament, the Foreign Affairs Department and Ayyad demanding an explanation.

However, she told The Australian that her attendance and statement of support tabled to parliament for the event to take place should not be viewed as “an endorsement of any foreign policy.”

“The 15th of November marked the 40th self-declared Independence Day for the TRNC [the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus]. It was a day of celebration and commemoration, with family–friendly activities for everyone to enjoy,” Ayyad said in her statement. She also thanked all the involved parties and calling it a “privilege” to attend.

(Left to Right) Cyprus High Commissioner Antonis Sammoutis & Cyprus Community of NSW President Andrew Costa. Photo: Anonymous participant/Facebook

A diplomatic source from the Cypriot High Commission told The Australian that Sammoutis was “offended” and viewed it with great concern.

“It is considered unacceptable to extend statements of this nature, which manifestly disregard Australia’s enduring official stance on the Cyprus matter,” the source said.

“The so-called ‘TRNC’ as a secessionist and illegal entity remains unrecognised by any state adhering to the precepts of international law.

“(Ms Ayyad’s statement) is not just inappropriate, but also offensive.”

Cyprus remains divided by a UN buffer zone, with Turkish military presence on the northern part of the island: the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Australia does not recognise the TRNC, only the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.

Screenshot of Tina Ayaad delivering a speech in NSW Parliament. Photo: Tina Ayyad – Member for Holsworthy/Facebook

The 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus saw an estimated 40 per cent of the Greek population, and the Turkish population displaced. The UNHCR register that 200,000 Greek Cypriots and 65,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced.

Neos Kosmos reached out to president of the Cyprus Community of NSW Andrew Costa, who described the situation as “terrible” and says the community are “disgusted” at Ayyad’s comments.

He also provided the masthead an official statement which will go out to the group’s members.

“We call upon Ms Ayyad to immediately and publicly apologise to the Cypriot community of Australia and to the legal and internationally recognised government of the Republic of Cyprus for her words and actions,” he said in the statement.

“As an elected member of the NSW parliament does Ms Ayyad believe she has the authority and the right to ignore the position of the Australian government on the ongoing occupation of one third of Cyprus. Is Mrs Ayyad aware that the Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is the only divided city in the world?”

Furthermore, he suggested the MP take part in an education program on the history and present internationally accepted view on the Cyprus problem, which is an “open wound” for all Cypriots.

Neos Kosmos reached out to representatives of Ayyad, but have not heard back from her, instead we will provide her explanation given to The Australian.

Tourist look at a road blocked with barrels and sand bags, with a banner showing the island in division at the top, across the UN buffer zone that divides the Greek, south, and Turkish Cypriots, north, controlled areas, in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo: AAP via AP/Petros Karadjias

“I attend many events in my role as a local MP,” she said.

“Multiculturalism is our strength, and I support and respect every community including Greek-Australian and Cypriot-Australian communities, and I would love to attend all events.

“I love to be among my community, and I love to represent them. I will continue to acknowledge and advocate for everyone in my electorate as their state MP.”

According to the report in The Australian Ayyad said she was accompanied by neighbouring NSW Liverpool MP Charishma Kaliyanda.

Costa’s response to us about this explanation was that perhaps she does have a right to attend all events but to “make ill-informed comments that are in contradiction to the Australian Government policy and the United Nations resolutions puts you at odds with the Australian public.”

Concerns over what has transpired has spread with president of the Cyprus Community of Melbourne Theo Theophanous telling Neos Kosmos that it’s simply “hurtful to Greek Cypriots when people make ignorant statements such as this one, without any knowledge or understanding of what took place in Cyprus.”