An initiative by Cyprus’ House President and President of the Democratic Rally Annita Demetriou and Meltem Onurkan Samani, General Coordinator of the Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Centre brought together on Friday women from both communities at the House for Cooperation, in the buffer zone in Nicosia, to discuss peace and exchange ideas on promoting dialogue and cooperation in a divided island.

The panel discussion titled “Women for Peace-initiatives to promote dialogue and cooperation” involved prominent women from all scopes of social life, politicians, scholars, journalists, educators, lawyers, artists, activists, environmentalists, members of technical committees and economists. They all shared their common vision for a reunited island and stressed the role of women in the peace process, demanding that they become heard and more visible and actively involved in the peace talks.

In her introductory statement, Annita Demetriou pointed out that we cannot find ourselves before an agreement and then decide to take action, pointing out that women must be actively participating in the peace dialogue. She said once again that there are no frozen conflicts and underlined the role of the youth and the need to overcome obstacles and address the challenges , bringing trust as well.

She also noted that personal relations are essential and play a key role in diplomacy. Demetriou also said that we need transparency in the process, criticizing the fact that the Greek Cypriot side does not yet have, as she noted, a Cyprus problem negotiating team despite the fact that the President asked the parties to give him names of people who could comprise this team.

Speaking after the event Demetriou said that today they joined efforts to build the solid foundation that will promote dialogue and peace through the voice of women.

She noted that women from both communities are taking action, as emphasized in the very useful and fruitful roundtable discussion, where specific ideas and proposals were put forward for a more active role and involvement of women in the negotiation process.

“The Democratic Rally continues unwaveringly and with even greater intensity its initiative, especially now with the efforts of the UNSG’s Personal Envoy, in order to bolster the sense of trust, contributing as much as we can to create the necessary conditions that will lead to the resumption of substantive negotiations and ultimately to the achievement of a solution. We are determined not to let any opportunity go down”, she said.

Meltem Onurkan Samani who was special advisor to former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci , former general coordinator of the UN led bi-communal Technical Committees and former Co-Chair of the Technical Committee on Education, said that we need joint efforts to create something concrete that will bring together both communities in view of the solution. She said that this year’s 60th anniversary of the UNFICYP presence on the island is a reminder of an unresolved issue.

She said that normalization of the status quo is not the solution and added that we need fresh perspectives and an active women role especially those who are often marginalized. Samani also underlined the role of empathy and consensus and also added that focusing on the external factor and blaming others does not let us see the right perspective and take initiatives.

Following the introductory statements by Demetriou and Samani, as the event was under their auspices, the floor was given to women who participated from both communities to give their insight, share experiences and put forward suggestions.

They all underlined the role women can play in the peace process, the sensitivities and special insight they could give to the talks, they spoke about gender equality issues, the role of education and media and how important it is to speak to  children about the issue, the peace and the things the two communities share.

There were suggestions about a pressure group that could be put together just like the one in Northern Ireland, the role of the youth, discussion about how important it is to educate people about the solution and to reach all groups and all ages.

All women stressed the gender perspective in the talks and underlined that there is not enough representation of women in the Technical Committees either. Some speakers also noted that women from both communities suffered a lot because of the conflict and they need visibility, and added that both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot women can also talk about other issues such as motherhood or fertility problems.

They also underlined the importance of UN Resolution 1325 and the fact that the Cyprus House passed on Thursday a resolution on women’s role in peace and security.

The role of morality also came up during the discussion and some underlined that if you are a moral and just person you do not need to be taught about the rights of others.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results.

The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

In January UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed Holguin as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue.

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