Cypriot leaders back gender equality in peace process

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Cypriot leaders held a rare meeting where they pledged to promote the participation of women in a United Nations-led Cyprus peace efforts that have stalled, officials said.

There have only been a handful of social meetings between Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar since the Ankara-backed hardliner was elected in the breakaway north of divided Cyprus last year.

The pair “attended the official launch of an Action Plan on ways to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the settlement process in Cyprus,” said a UN statement Wednesday.

The action plan was developed in response to a request by the UN Security Council in January to encourage the sides to ensure the needs and perspectives of women are addressed in a future settlement.

“A technical committee on gender equality expressed their intention to conduct further outreach to civil society organizations to solicit their views on how to include a gender perspective in the settlement process,” said the UN.

There have been no official UN-sponsored Cyprus settlement negotiations since a conference in Switzerland collapsed in July 2017.

The leaders’ attended the event in Nicosia’s UN-controlled buffer zone hosted by the UN’s head of mission, Colin Stewart.

Voters in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on October 18 narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Tatar as their president at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

An advocate of a two-state solution with the Republic of Cyprus — an EU member — he edged out previous Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to rekindle talks between the two sides.

Tatar was also behind reopening the Greek Cypriot resort of Varosha, a sealed-off ghost town since 1974.

Afterwards, Anastasiades expressed his regret over what he said was the “continuous intransigence” shown by the Turkish Cypriot side.

He said the Turkish Cypriot leadership insists on the unacceptable position that they should first have the recognition of “their sovereign equality” and then try to see if there is ground for a settlement.

He proposed a meeting to discuss the concerns of each side and how to address them, noting that the basis for a Cyprus settlement was agreed upon some decades ago.

“I suggested to discuss the Confidence Building Measures that I have proposed…he had a negative approach.”

Moreover, he said that he told Tatar that they must take measures to block the flows of refugees “who are unfortunately instrumentalized by Turkey for political purposes.”

“Tatar rejected that and asked for a discussion of experts. I told him that it is not a matter of experts but a matter of political will to prevent the thousands of migrants who arrive each month to the government-controlled areas.”

There was also no common ground on the appointment of a UN envoy for Cyprus.