- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Sweet sixteen

Marilyn Sephocle started organizing an annual forum for female ambassadors at Howard University in 1996, after learning that 10 women headed foreign missions here.

When she wrote her book last year, there were a dozen. Now, 16 women serve as their country's top diplomat in Washington.

"The book had a big impact," said Ms. Sephocle with a laugh yesterday. "I would like to think that."

Her book, "Then There Were Twelve: The Women of Washington's Embassy Row," gave a voice to many of the female ambassadors who otherwise would have remained overshadowed by the men who still dominate a diplomatic corps of 173.

Ms. Sephocle, a professor of business and diplomacy at Howard, said the female ambassadors got here on their own merits.

"Their presence in Washington today is a measure of how far women have come and of the degree to which education has opened doors for women," she wrote.

"The women ambassadors in Washington generally have one solid common denominator — a strong educational background. Not the coattail of a husband or a father, not incredible wealth, but rather education, talent and strength of character.

"Their very presence crushes age-old myths about the limitations and frailties of women."

Ironically, the women profiled in her book come mostly from African and Latin American nations, ones not historically known for promoting women's rights.

"Africa is by far the continent that trusted women the most in handling bilateral relations with the United States," she wrote.

Ms. Sephocle became aware of the lack of female representation in foreign affairs when she was an interpreter at the United Nations in the 1980s.

"Whenever I walked into the chamber of the General Assembly, the largest body of diplomats in the world, I was always struck by the sea of male suits dominating the scene," she wrote.

"The world," she observed, was "operating at less than half its brain capacity."

"How ironic it is to exclude women from a field that requires the very qualities that even the most chauvinist of men recognize in women," she added. "Aptitude for dialogue, a sense of civility, non-aggressive attitudes, the ability to compromise and a reluctance to use force are all qualities necessary in diplomacy.

"These women are currently reshaping diplomacy," she said, "giving it their touch, adding to it a dynamic combination of grace, intelligence and a certain intuition coupled with a strength of character."

The female ambassadors today represent Angola, Belize, Bolivia, Congo, Cyprus, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Pakistan, Paraguay, Singapore, South Africa, St. Lucia, Swaziland and Uganda.

Ms. Sephocle's book, at $65, is available on Amazon.com and at the Howard University bookstore.


Divided Cyprus in EU

A top Cypriot envoy yesterday warned the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot regime that it risks being left behind when the Greek-Cypriot government is admitted to the European Union.

George Vassiliou, a former president of Cyprus and now its chief negotiator for EU membership, predicted Cyprus will join the EU by 2004 regardless of whether the island is reunited.

"We have always wanted to have the Turkish Cypriots with us in our negotiations into the EU," Mr. Vassiliou told the Western Policy Center in Washington.

"[But] the answer as to whether a divided Cyprus can join has already been given by the EU itself," he added, referring to a 1999 decision.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey, has insisted on being treated as an equal to the Greek-Cypriot administration, the internationally recognized government of the island.

Mr. Vassiliou said Cyprus' admission to the EU will lead to reunification "shortly afterwards."

"It will greatly facilitate the reunification of the island as a federation [and] will give a feeling of security and stability to all Cypriots and particularly to Turkish Cypriots," he said.

Mr. Vassiliou blamed the lack of progress on Turkey, which sent troops to the northern part of the island after a 1974 coup engineered by a Greek officers.

Turkey justifies its troop presence as a protection for Turkish Cypriots.


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