17 May 2007

Premier sticks his nose into international conflict

Premier Rann, on a visit to Cyprus, has, as Adelaide Now tells us, left nobody in any doubt about his opinion:

Mr Rann, on a three-day visit to the island nation, said Australia should take an active involvement in helping to solve the political conflict. He said he would continue "to be an advocate for the cause of human rights, for the cause of international law and also on behalf of those Australian Greek Cypriots who have lost their property and have lost their freedom to partake in that property".

During his visit, Mr Rann met lawyers representing South Australians of Cypriot origin who lost their properties due to the invasion and who have filed cases against Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights with funding from his Government. "We are the only government outside Cyprus that has been prepared to step in . . . what we are seeing is a complete breach of international law," he said.

Many of the 5000 Greek-Cypriot South Australians are among the 200,000 refugees who were driven out at gunpoint from their homes and towns by the Turkish military.

"Turkey wants to join the EU but continues to violate international law. It is not a good start for Turkey in that it is violating laws and occupying a third of Cyprus, including the properties of Greek-Cypriot refugees from South Australia," Mr Rann said.

It concerns me that a state government is funding and "is prepared to step in" to an international situation which appears to be rooted in centuries old antagonism between Greek and Turkish people. The Premier has no, repeat no, power over foreign affairs and should not be, whatever the merits of his case, pretending that he has.

Like, I expect, most South Australians, I'm no authority on the country, but I've checked
DFAT's Smart Traveller advice for Cyprus , the relevant part of which says:

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus is the sole internationally recognised authority in Cyprus but its control, in practice, is exercised only in the southern part of the island which is predominantly Greek Cypriot. The northern part of Cyprus is controlled by the so-called 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC) which is only recognised by Turkey. There is also Turkish military presence in the north. A United Nations peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) patrols the buffer zone between the two sectors.

There have been occasional violent incidents along the UN Buffer Zone (also known as 'The Green Line').

You should avoid public demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent, especially around the UN Buffer Zone.

You should exercise caution in discussions in public areas of sensitive issues related to the problems of Cyprus' continued division. [Emphasis added].

If the Premier feels so strongly about the matter he should ask Mr Downer and DFAT to act on his behalf, rather than shooting from the hip as he's done. I'd be more sympathetic to him had he not harrumphed so loudly about how David Hicks should be treated after his release from prison as if everything Donald Rumsfeld had said about him was true, or if he'd not been silent about the detention of refugees and asylum seekers in his state.

Meanwhile back home in SA a storm in a teacup has blown up over remarks made by the MC at a Liberal fundraising function attended by Mr Costello. The joke is non-PC, but it reflects recent stories about Greek property developers making large donations to the ALP and, if not in return then almost concurrently, receiving the green light for major developments.

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