Australian Premier expresses interest in Cyprus settlement
Nicosia, Mar 16 (CNA) -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard has expressed his country's interest in a Cyprus settlement during a meeting in Camberra with Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, who is paying an official visit to Australia.
The Australian Premier assured the Cypriot official that Australia would continue contributing to the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
A House press release issued here today said Christofias had today meetings in Canberra with Howard, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Justice Minister Chris Ellison, Citizenship Minister Peter McGauran, leader of the opposition Kim Beazley, shadow Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and President of the Australian-Cyprus parliamentary Group George Brandis.
The Cyprus problem and relations between Australia and Cyprus were at the epicentre of Christofias' meetings.
The Australian Prime Minister said his country is very much interested in the settlement of the Cyprus problem, noting that thousands of Cypriots who live in Australia play a serious role in the political, economic and social life of the country.
Christofias thanked all Australian officials for the stance of Australia as regards the Cyprus problem and for the fact that Australia participates for 40 years now to the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.
He noted the very positive way in which Australia welcomed the first Cypriot immigrants and refugees that immigrated to Australia after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
The Cypriot House President underlined that the Greek Cypriots rejected the UN plan for a Cyprus settlement, not because they do not want a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, but because the final plan that emerged from the UN Secretary General's arbitration was neither just nor balanced.
He stressed the need for substantive changes to the Annan plan, so that it becomes more functional and viable thus allowing the Greek Cypriots to accept it.
Both Howard and Ellison assured Christofias that Australia would continue to maintain a police peace force in Cyprus, within the framework of the UN peacekeeping force.
Christofias also met in Canberra with Senators and deputies and extended an invitation to the Presidents of the Australian Parliament and Senate to pay official visits to Cyprus.
He also met with the administration council of the Cyprus community in Canberra.
Tomorrow Christofias will fly to Brisbane, where he will meet with the President of the parliament of Queensland, the leader of the local opposition and the administration council of the Cyprus community in Brisbane.