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The Head of the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Elizabeth Spehar has said she is quite hopeful about what may transpire during next week’s meetings between the leaders of the island’s two communities, who will meet in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin for intensive talks concentrating on territory.

“If it goes reasonably well, I think we will be in a very definitive stage of this negotiation process,” she said.

Speaking at a conference in Nicosia on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women participation in peace processes in the Cyprus context, Spehar said that here is a tremendous opportunity in Cyprus for these leaders, for the first time in a long time, and perhaps in the most viable fashion ever to present a truly, mutually beneficial political agreement on the table for reunification of the island.

“Women cannot be missing from that equation. Viability and sustainability of any agreement will depend on women participation” she said.

In the Cyprus talks, she said, despite the progress in female participation and the gender advisory team, there is need to do a lot more. She added that if the talks continue to go well and if the leaders arrive at their aim of a comprehensive political agreement by the end of the year, they will have to start turning their attention to implementation, to constitutions, to joint federal institutions, key federal and organic laws. “This is where again women`s voices their concerns and their perspectives will need to be reflected”, she said.

Spehar also said that as it seen around the world often, the inclusion or the lack of women is a key factor in failure or success of a particular peace enterprise.

“We`ve seen that when women are involved in peace processes, a peace agreement is more likely to be implemented, more likely to be concluded and also to be sustained and provide sustainable peace”, she said, adding that “if you want to be successful in Cyprus women`s voices need to be heard”.

She also pointed out that the UN mission to Cyprus works very hard to reflect UNSCR 1325 in its daily work, with increased participation of women, not only civilian personnel but also military and police. She added that Cyprus had recently the first woman force commander in the entire UN security system.

EU Principal Adviser on Gender and of UNSCR 1325 Mara Marinaki, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, assured on behalf of the EU that “we are indeed committed to continue together with you as partners in the efforts of building a sustainable and coherent effect of UNSCR 1325 into the Cyprus context”.

As Marinaki said, in the context of Cyprus, much has been achieved in terms of gender equality and the agenda of peace and security, but this should be compared to the zero point of departure, which means that there is a very serious room for improvements.

“We continue to see a considerable lack of addressing the implementation of resolution 1325 to substantially include women in the peace talks but also across the board, political participation, proper inclusion of women in the higher management, across the board in the system, in the government, in public institutions and also in the private sector in leadership positions”, she said.

Marinaki furthermore noted that the absence of Cypriot women from formal peace talks and negotiations shows a gap between the endeavours of the international community and the realities of the overall peace process on the island.

“Women experiences, contribution, perspectives are still missing from the policy and security discussions around a comprehensive negotiated reconciliation in Cyprus”, she noted, adding that though women are very active and present at the level of civil society, they are also definitely under-represented at the levels of decision making in any formal setting and this does not reflect the current political and social realities and should change.

Former Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou – Marcoullis pointed out that UNSCR 1325 in many countries, including Cyprus, has not taken any concrete and real effect in daily live and in particular as far as negotiations concern.

Marcoullis spoke of a “tragic situation”, stressing that her inclusion in the team that will accompany the President of Cyprus in the negotiations in Switzerland is a tragic reminder that women are absent in the negotiations and around the negotiating table.

Saying that she was not satisfied with the present situation, she added that the change of this situation is a responsibility of the leaders.

“Unfortunately, the negotiations so far that have been leader led, have been also men led,” she pointed out.

She also said that “we`ve missed a very unique opportunity to participate in this process which will put a new frame in our relations with the other community but also in the future federal state of Cyprus”.

At least in the implementation process women should be present, she noted, to integrate in the three constitutions (of the federal government and the two constituent states) all the elements that are necessary and do not exist in the present constitution.

Addressing the conference, Ambassador of Sweden Anna Olson Vrang said that a successful peace processes is not only about ending a conflict, but more importantly is about building inclusive societies and promoting sustainable peace, human rights and developments. “This is why women must take part in all decision making processes at all levels and be active in defining priorities and resource allocation,” she added.

She also said that many actors involved in mediation and conflict resolution remain hesitant to including women, arguing that they are worried about overloading the process. As she pointed out “we need to counter such arguments with hard facts.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been engaged in UN-backed talks since May last year, with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.

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