A private visit by Victorian Labor MP Natalie Suleyman to Cyprus has been criticised following her appearance at the parliament of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Ms Suleyman met with the Speaker of the TRNC parliament, Sibel Siber, during her two-week trip earlier this year – an action that prompted PASEKA (the PanAustralian Justice For Cyprus Coordinating Committee) president Constantinos Procopiou to write to the Victorian government asking for clarification on its position in regard to the divided island.
Mr Procopiou said Ms Suleyman’s visit to the parliament was “unfortunate” at a time “when pressure [was] needed to encourage Turkey to “abandon its expansive inspirations and allow the people of Cyprus to reach a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue”.
In a statement provided to the media, Mr Procopiou also questioned whether the trip was funded by the Victorian government and if Ms Suleyman had entered Cyprus illegally.
Ms Suleyman, who travels to Cyprus regularly to stay in touch with extended family, defended her actions this week, describing Mr Procopiou’s comments as “disappointing”.
“I privately funded the trip, I entered Cyprus through Larnaca, and it’s these sort of petty allegations that hold back the efforts of many people on both sides who want to see a resolution,” she told Neos Kosmos.
“My visit to the parliament was not an official visit. I sat in the public gallery and I did meet the Speaker along with other parliamentarians. I also said I looked forward to coming back and continuing to build relationships.”
Former parliamentarian Theo Theophanous – the first person of Greek Cypriot heritage to be elected to the Victorian parliament, said the attack on Ms Suleyman was totally unwarranted.
“Natalie Suleyman is the first-ever Turkish Cypriot MP in Victoria. She supports a fair resolution for Cyprus and we need people like her who want to build bridges,” said Mr Theophanous.
“The rash, unsubstantiated allegations from PASEKA only serve to illustrate how out of touch they are with the many, many people who are promoting dialogue and a solution to the Cyprus problem.”