In response to Bill Papastergiadis’ letter (dated 21 August) to the Prime Minister encouraging the Australian Government to engage in the concerning developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mr. Dougal McInnes on behalf of Prime Minister Scott Morrison replied as follows:
The Government is aware of tensions between Turkey and Greece, including Turkey’s exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. We share the international community’s concern about the potential escalation of the situation and support a peaceful resolution, through dialogue and negotiation, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. Australia regularly reaffirms with Turkish counterparts the importance we attach to the rule of law.
The Government supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and recognises the Republic as the only legitimate authority on the island. Australia does not recognise the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.
Australia and Greece have a warm and enduring relationship built on strong people-to-people links and binds forged in war. Australians of Greek descent have made a special contribution to developing and enriching contemporary Australia, across many areas of Australian society including politics, sports, the arts, food and fashion.
Greek Community of Melbourne president Bill Papastergiadis thanked the Australian Government for its response and went on to say:
“It is good to see that the Australian Government is – as we would expect – across the growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. However we believe that more can be done and that it is in Australia’s interest to seek through its excellent diplomatic channels a peaceful resolution to the questions at hand.
It is heartening to see that the Australian Government has reaffirmed its position on the issue of the rule of law with its Turkish counterparts insisting that Turkey comply with International Law including the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and that it continues to recognise the Republic of Cyprus as the only legitimate authority on the island.
However it is also important that the Australian Government reaffirms that integral to Cyprus’ territorial integrity are the surrounding waters of the island, as dictated in the afore mentioned UN convention.”
In addition, Mr Papastergiadis with his interstate counterparts wrote to the Prime Minister copying the Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne, seeking an urgent meeting to press the Australian Government for further diplomatic action akin to other international diplomacy with a view to de-escalating the tensions that are building.