President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday announced agreement on establishing a new technical committee for education that will be tasked with reviewing educational practices in an attempt to combat racism, xenophobia and extremism.
The committee will review existing research and good practices in education in Cyprus and abroad and undertake new relevant research on how education can contribute to conflict transformation, peace, reconciliation and the countering of prejudice, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and extremism, according to an official statement.
They will work on devising a mutually acceptable mechanism for the implementation of confidence building measures in schools of the two educational systems and promote contact and co-operation between students and educators from the two communities.
In addition best policy options and course of action that will allow co-ordination of the two educational systems will be recommended, “thus contributing to a viable, sustainable and functional bi-communal, bi-zonal federation”.
The deal on education is seen as a response to an attack on Turkish Cypriot cars on November 16 by schools pupils during an anti-occupation demonstration in the capital. Around 15 Greek Cypriot teens have been charged over the attacks in which three Turkish Cypriots were injured. The leaders previously condemned the attacks in a joint statement.
Wednesday’s was the sixth meeting the leaders held in November as part of intensive talks which were held under a media blackout. They met for three and a half hours at the Good Offices Mission of the UN Secretary General at the old Nicosia airport.
UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide said afterwards that the leaders had discussed many of the main issues in great depth and had made further progress.
“The leaders have achieved a better understanding of each other’s concerns. They now feel more hopeful and confident that the outstanding issues could be resolved in the near future in the course of their negotiations,” Eide said.
They have also agreed to meet on December 4, 15 and 20, and will pay a joint visit to the anthropological lab of the Committee on Missing Persons on December 20.
According to reports, Eide expressed the belief that barriers between the two sides could be overcome in a short time and that the leaders wanted to find a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible.
Eide said the negotiators of the two sides would meet on a nearly daily basis in order to discuss and to prepare the next round of leaders’ meetings. Preparatory work is also ongoing at the level of working groups and committees, he said.
On his return to the presidential palace, Anastasiades said there was hope for success as long as both sides maintained the same good will. He said he and Akinci agree on many issues but there were still difficulties that “I hope that we will overcome through mutual understanding of the concerns of each of the two communities,” he said.
In response to a question about increased international interest, Anastasiades said this was something that was welcome.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is due in Cyprus on December 3, and the Chinese foreign minister on December 21. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also due to visit the island.