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Gender Equality

Ban Ki-moon appoints Kristin Lund UN's first female peacekeeping commander

The UN has appointed its first female peacekeeping force commander. In August, Major General Kristin Lund will go to Cyprus, which has been divided into a north claimed by Turkey and an ethnically Greek south since 1974.

On August 13, Major General Kristin Lund will replace Chinese Major General Chao Liu, commanding 1,000 peacekeepers in Cyprus, which has been divided for four decades following Turkey's invasion of the north after a Greek-inspired coup in the south.

"Major General Lund has had a distinguished military career, with over 34 years of military command and staff experience at national and international levels," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

In 2004, Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint to reunify the island. Largely fruitless UN-brokered talks between the two sides ceased in 2012, only to resume again in February of this year.

'Most important weapon'

Lund, who turns 56 Friday, joined Norway's army in 1979 and served with the UN mission in Lebanon in 1986. She said that she had fallen in love with the United Nations while serving in Lebanon and had learned that "maybe the most important weapon that you have is communication and to build relations."

On Monday, Lund told the Associated Press news agency that cracking the glass ceiling in UN peacekeeping had proved a major step for women.

"I think it's time, and I think it's important that other women see that it's possible also in the UN system to get up in the military hierarchy to become a force commander," Lund, who holds degrees from the Norwegian Defense Command and Staff College and the US Army War College said.

In 1991, Lund worked as a transport officer in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, followed by a 1992-93 stint with the UN protection force in Bosnia, serving after the war with the NATO-led force. Lund served in Afghanistan with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from 2003 to 2004.

She became deputy commander of the Norwegian Army Forces Command in 2007 and was appointed the country's first female major general in 2009. In January, she began to head veteran affairs on the Norwegian Defense Staff.

Lund told the AP that she had wanted to go overseas again before she retired and, when a representative of Norway's Defense Ministry asked her if she would like to try commanding a peacekeeping force, she replied "Yes, I love the UN."

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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