NO SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS MADE TOWARDS STABLE PEACE IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

28 March 2005
SC/8345

NO SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS MADE TOWARDS STABLE PEACE IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

28/03/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8345

Security Council

5152nd Meeting (PM)

No significant progress made towards stable peace

in Côte d’Ivoire, Security Council told

 

Presence of UN Operation, Supported by Licorne Force, Vital

To Preventing Complete Breakdown in Security, Deputy Special Representative Says

The peace process in Côte d’Ivoire had made no significant progress since the presentation of the Secretary-General’s third progress report and continued to suffer from the reverberations of the November 2004 attacks, Alan Doss, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country, said in a briefing to the Security Council this afternoon.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s fourth progress report on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), he said that the road map drawn up by the African Union through the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki had remained largely unachieved; the Government of National Reconciliation remained bereft of Forces nouvelles ministers; and the military dialogue had been interrupted, all of which had delayed the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  The security environment was volatile; the human rights situation remained a source of great concern; and the economic situation was getting worse by the day.

He said that in February 2005, the Forces nouvelles had reorganized the areas under their control, creating five new territorial entities under the command of new warlords.  At the same time, Guillaume Soro, Secretary-General of the Forces nouvelles, had announced the opening of a new police and customs academy, as well as a new bank in Bouaké, actions that, even though they did not indicate an immediate intention to secede, did reveal, however, that the Forces nouvelles saw the crisis as one of long duration.  The difficulties encountered in implementing the peace agreements called into question the feasibility of the presidential elections scheduled for October 2005.

In such a context of mutual suspicion between the parties, the temptation to resolve their differences by resorting to war was a constant danger, he said.  The UNOCI, supported by the Licorne force, remained vigilant in the confidence zone, amid rising tensions.  There was a peace to keep in Côte d’Ivoire, however fragile it might appear, and the presence of those impartial forces was vital to preventing a complete breakdown in security, which would halt the political process and create more suffering for the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  However, the mission’s present strength was a cause for serious concern as it would be unable to respond effectively, should two or more major incidents occur at the same time.

The responsibilities deriving from resolution 1584 (2005) had also created additional demands on the mission’s limited resources, he stated.  While it had been made clear to the forces in place that UNOCI would implement its mandate using the agreed rules of engagement, it must have the means to carry out its mandate so as to discourage any adventurism.  In that regard, it was to be hoped that the Council would consider favourably the reinforcement requested in the Secretary-General’s third report, as well as his request for an extension of UNOCI’s mandate.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, speaking on behalf of the African Union Mediation Mission on Côte d’Ivoire, stressed that the Security Council and the African Union should have the possibility of imposing effective sanctions against any Ivorian players who might wilfully deny the people of Côte d’Ivoire their right to peace, democracy and development.  The fundamental and long-term solution to the Ivorian crisis required that Côte d’Ivoire successfully address issues, including nationality, political rights, land and co-existence in a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.  Both organizations must resist the temptation to seek short-term solutions that disguised the real problems, and thus created the basis for a more intractable crisis in the future.

He said that while the National Assembly had adopted the constitutional text of article 35 relating to the eligibility for election to the presidency, the process of amending the Ivorian Constitution in that regard had not been finalized, a requirement that must be fulfilled as soon as possible.  The African Union Mediation and the Ivorian parties were committed to holding the presidential elections in October, as scheduled, he said.  It was vital to implement the road map in a manner and within time-frames that would ensure that credible elections were held later this year.  To resolve outstanding challenges relating to implementation, a critical meeting between President Mbeki and Côte d’Ivoire’s principal political leaders would take place in Pretoria, South Africa, in six days’ time.

France’s representative, noting that the international community had placed great hopes in President Mbeki’s and South Africa’s efforts, emphasized that the stakes were high for Côte d’Ivoire and for the Ivorian people.  Moreover, if Côte d’Ivoire collapsed, the entire region would be destabilized for a long time to come.  The continuation of a major crisis on the continent was unacceptable.  However, despite all the efforts undertaken, Côte d’Ivoire was very far from returning to the path of reconciliation and the parties had not abandoned the military option.  They must know that the international community would never agree to the settling of crises by force or arms, and would seek compliance with the arms embargo imposed on Côte d’Ivoire.  In that context, a strengthening of UNOCI was very urgent.

The representative of Greece, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee overseeing the arms embargo established by resolution 1572 (2004), appealed to all Member States in the region that had not yet done so to submit to the Committee information on national measures that they had taken towards the strict implementation of the embargo, which was binding on all Member States.  If the situation remained volatile, the Committee would have no option but to proceed to the full implementation of resolutions 1572 and 1584 against those obstructing the peace process and violating human rights.  Furthermore, Ivorian parties controlling militia groups should hold their leaders accountable for attacks on civilians and peacekeepers.  Human rights abuses continued to occur in a climate of impunity and insecurity that might further heighten tensions.

Also speaking today were representatives of Romania, Benin, China, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Algeria, Japan, Russian Federation, Argentina, Philippines, United Kingdom, Denmark, Brazil and Côte d’Ivoire.

The meeting began at 3:23 p.m. and ended at 5:54 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the Secretary-General’s fourth progress report (document S/2005/186) on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) dated 18 March 2005, in which he recommends a 12-month extension of UNOCI’s mandate until 4 April 2006, emphasizing that the security situation in the country remains precarious and that the disarmament of ex-combatants and militias has not started.

Noting that the mobilization of militia-type groups is increasing nationwide and “irregular” recruitment into the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) continues to be reported, further heightening tension, the Secretary-General expresses his deep concern over the arming of these militias, and their increasingly dangerous activities, including in Abidjan.  They may provoke a major confrontation and must be reined in and held accountable, including for their attacks against civilians and peacekeepers.  There is a very real danger that events may spin out of control, with incalculable consequences for the people of Côte d’Ivoire and the region as a whole, the Secretary-General warns.

The report says that on 28 February, 100 armed elements, allegedly belonging to the Mouvement Ivorien de Liberation de l’Ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire (MILOCI), attacked a Forces nouvelles checkpoint in Logoualé, north of Bangolo in the zone of confidence.  UNOCI troops deployed rapidly to the area and regained control of the town, an operation in which a Bangladeshi soldier was seriously injured.  The UNOCI apprehended and disarmed some 87 armed “youths” who were handed over to local authorities in Guiglo on 3 March, but all were released the following day.  The attack, which was not condemned by President Laurent Gbagbo, led to a significant increase in tensions, with the Forces Nouvelles reinforcing their defensive positions.

Prior to the attack, the report says, both FANCI and the Forces Nouvelles had violated the zone of confidence on several occasions and “uncontrolled” elements of both sides engaged in looting and extortion inside the zone and in adjacent areas.  In addition, violent incidents between ethnic groups, sometimes involving armed elements, have also occurred in the western part of the zone.  In a bid to contain this dangerous and unpredictable situation, UNOCI has organized reconciliation meetings between the Guéré, on one side, and Dozos and people of Burkinabé descent, on the other.

According to the report, the UNOCI and Licorne forces will continue to provide security in support of the peace process and to respond robustly to any attempt to violate the integrity of the zone of confidence.  While their presence is an increasingly important deterrence to the resumption of hostilities, the capacity of the United Nations force is severely strained in this highly volatile context and with the addition of new responsibilities resulting from Security Council resolutions 1572 (2004) and 1584 (2005).  Asking the Council to approve the additional military, police and civilian resources requested in his third report (document S/2005/962), the Secretary-General says they are indispensable to enable UNOCI to discharge effectively its multiple responsibilities and to ensure the safety and security of United Nations staff.

It is also important to provide UNOCI with the requisite technical capacity and other resources to enhance its effectiveness in monitoring the arms embargo, the report stresses.  The present force level is 6,017 against the authorized strength of 6,240, with the major shortfall occurring in the helicopter unit, for which a troop contributor is actively being sought.  UNOCI aviation support currently lacks the flexibility of dedicated military assets, critical for movement and timely employment of reserves, patrolling of the borders and implementation of the enhanced mandate of monitoring the arms embargo, as well as for medical evacuation of injured United Nations troops.

Maintaining stability in the increasingly fragile security environment has remained a major challenge, the Secretary-General states, recalling that the capacity of both UNOCI and the Licorne forces was exceeded during the November crisis.  He recommended in his third report the emergency deployment of an additional 1,226 troops to allow UNOCI to deploy in Abidjan and elsewhere in the south, restore its credibility in the zone of confidence, as well as institute a minimum reserve as a first level of response.  This would enable UNOCI to provide adequate security for United Nations personnel and facilities, and mitigate some of its vulnerabilities.

Regarding disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), the report recalls that following a meeting on 18 January, Prime Minister Seydou Diarra and Force Nouvelles Secretary-General Guillaume Soro agreed to revise the structure of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration to assure its balanced composition.  The Commission recently announced that there are an estimated 10,000 militia members in Côte d’Ivoire, although that number is very likely to be underestimated and could increase owing to the recent important recruitment and mobilization of “young patriots” in the south.  The Front de Liberation du Grand Ouest (FLGO), the principal militia in the west, is made up of about 7,000 members and is to be included in the DDR process.  However, additional steps are needed before the exercise can commence, including the resumption of Forces Nouvelles collaboration, the rehabilitation of the disarmament cantonment facilities, and the regrouping of forces as envisaged in the 9 January 2004 joint plan of action signed by the parties in Yamoussoukro.

Turning to elections, the report emphasizes that Côte d’Ivoire is at a critical juncture.  Time is rapidly running out for the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled to be held within the next seven months, with protracted delays in their preparation and organization.  The Independent Electoral Commission is the subject of partisan debate and should the elections be postponed for any length of time, a major crisis of confidence is likely to arise, further undermining stability.  Certain parties are asking for an enhanced United Nations role in the electoral process, but such requests require the agreement of all Ivorian parties.  Solutions are also urgently needed on:  the legislative reforms, as envisaged in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement; the organization of elections; the adoption of the revised article 35 of the Constitution relating to eligibility for the presidency; and the initiation of the disarmament process.

On re-establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights, the report notes that the activities of the UNOCI civilian police component were initially focused on establishing a training programme for the Ivorian National Police and the Gendarmerie, as well as on providing technical assistance for their reform and restructuring.  Training modules for courses in the maintenance of public law and order, human rights, community policing and criminal investigations have been completed.  However, owing to the prevailing political stalemate, the UNOCI civilian police component has been unable to fulfil the core element of its mandate to restore a civilian police presence throughout Côte d’Ivoire and advise on the restructuring of the internal security services.  Furthermore, the Ivorian parties have been unable to agree on the redeployment of police officers throughout the country.

Despite the lack of a restructuring plan, a large recruitment of police and gendarmerie cadets has continued in government-controlled areas, the report says.  On 10 February, the Forces Nouvelles inaugurated a police academy in Bouaké, where they intend to train a first group of 600 police officers recruited in areas under their control.  The UNOCI, including its civilian police and military components, and FANCI, the Ivorian National Police and the Gendarmerie started joint patrols on 22 December 2004, operating from Bouaké, Daloa, Yamoussoukro and Bondoukou.  While the Ivorian authorities are ultimately responsible for security in Abidjan, these patrols have contributed to a general decrease of insecurity in the areas where they have deployed.

In conclusion, the report stresses that in the final analysis, the international community cannot replace or substitute the political will of the Ivorian leadership and people to move the peace process forward, and that ultimately, the Ivorian leaders bear full responsibility for finding a way out of the crisis and making the hard decisions and visionary compromises that are urgently required.  Those who fail to accept this responsibility should expect the international community to act with firmness and bring into force the individual measures envisaged in Security Council resolution 1572 (2004), which remains an important part of the international community’s strategy for advancing the peace process.  It would be very important that the Council also send a clear message that it will not tolerate any incitement to provoke or attack the UNOCI or Licorne forces, deployed in Côte d’Ivoire at the request of the national authorities in support of the peace process and not to impose a partisan solution to the crisis.

Statement by Principal Deputy Special Representative

ALAN DOSS, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire, said that since the presentation of the Secretary-General’s third progress report, the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire had made no significant progress and continued to suffer from the reverberations of November 2004.  The road map drawn up by the African Union via President Thabo Mbeki had remained largely unachieved; the Government of National Reconciliation remained bereft of Force Nouvelles ministers; and the military dialogue had been interrupted, thus delaying the DDR process.  The security environment was volatile; the human rights situation remained a source of great concern; and the economic situation was getting worse by the day.

In February 2005, the Forces Nouvelles had reorganized the areas under their control, creating five new territorial entities under new warlords, he said.  At the same time, Forces Nouvelles Secretary-General Soro had announced the opening of a new police and customs academy, as well as the opening of a new bank in Bouaké.  Even though that did not indicate an immediate intention of secession, it did reveal, however, that the Forces Nouvelles foresaw that the crisis would be one of long duration.

He said that the difficulties encountered in implementing the peace agreements brought into question the feasibility of the presidential elections scheduled for October 2005.  That election, which all parties wished to be just, transparent, free and open, was at the centre of all political calculations.  With the time running out, electoral tasks like voter identification and updating of the electoral lists had not yet begun, and the Independent National Electoral Commission very much contested.  Uncertainty weighed increasingly upon the question of whether the general elections could be held on time.  Because of the lack of trust between the parties and the suspicion of partiality on the part of the Constitutional Council and the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Group of 7 countries had requested that the United Nations organize the next elections in order to guarantee their credibility.

In such a context of mutual suspicion between the parties, the temptation to resolve their differences by resorting to war was a constant danger, he said.  The UNOCI, supported by the Licorne force, remained vigilant in the zone of confidence, where the situation had become more tense following the incident at Logoualé of 28 February.  The impartial forces had reinforced their positions in order to prevent incursions and to confiscate individual weapons, but, unfortunately, such infringements were not authorized by the authorities in place.  Moreover, the activities of militias, which had increased strongly, constituted a growing threat to the country’s security.

In the absence of a functioning internal political process, external mediation and pressure must help move the country towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis, he said.  President Mbeki had consulted extensively with the key Ivorian actors and would hold talks with them again in early April.  The key issues that must be resolved in order to assure the long-term stability of Côte d’Ivoire were the eligibility of candidates for the presidency, disarmament of all armed groups, including the militia, and the organization of free, fair and open presidential and legislative elections.  For that to happen, difficult but unavoidable compromises would have to be made by all the protagonists so that the legitimacy of State institutions could be fully exercised.  Those issues could only be resolved in a secure environment that inspired the confidence of all parties.

Stressing that there was a peace to keep in Côte d’Ivoire, however fragile it might appear, he said the presence of the impartial forces was vital to preventing a complete breakdown in security, which would halt the political process and create more suffering for the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  The present strength of UNOCI was, however, a cause for serious concern.  It would not be able to respond effectively should two or more major incidents occur at the same time.  The responsibilities deriving from resolution 1584 (2005) had also created additional demands on the mission’s limited resources.  While it had been made clear to the forces in place that UNOCI would implement its mandate using the agreed rules of engagement, it must be sure to have the means of its mandate so as to discourage any adventurism.  In that regard, it was to be hoped that the Council would consider favourably the reinforcement requested in the Secretary-General’s third report, as well as the extension of UNOCI’s mandate.

Regarding the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, he said that, during the Deputy Secretary-General’s recent visit to Côte d’Ivoire, she had been briefed on the very energetic measures that UNOCI had been taking to tackle the problem.  A number of specific measures had been put in place to prevent abuse and exploitation, including expanded training and awareness programmes, vehicle curfews and designation of off-limit areas.  All staff —- civilian and military -- had been forcefully reminded of their responsibilities in that regard.

Despite the many difficulties that the mission had faced since its inception one year ago, it had earned the confidence of the international community, he said.  That was due in large part to the unwavering commitment of the UNOCI staff, as well as other United Nations teams working in the country.  With the Council’s support and guidance, the mission would build on that record of service to help Côte d’Ivoire and its people advance towards a better and more secure future.

Other Statements

AZIZ PAHAD, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, on behalf of the African Union Mediation Mission on Côte d’Ivoire, recalled that, late last year, when the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire seemed to have reached a cul-de-sac, the Chairperson of the African Union had asked President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to act as the mediator of the African Union to expedite the Ivorian peace process.  A sense of urgency continued to inform the activities of the African Union Mediation, especially given the need to hold the next presidential election in October this year, and given the deteriorating socio-economic situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

The African Union Mediation arrived at several important conclusions, he said.  The first was that it should seek a solution of the Ivorian crisis within the framework of the Linas-Marcoussis and the Accra II and III Agreements.  Secondly, it should work out a road map with specific time-frames, indicating a variety of steps that would have to be taken to put the Ivorian peace process back on course.  Thirdly, all Ivorian parties should agree to those propositions, and commit themselves to a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the crisis. 

It was of cardinal importance, he said, that, despite their differences, the Ivorian leadership was at least united behind those three fundamental propositions.  It was clear that the peace settlement in Côte d’Ivoire required the cooperation and involvement of all the Ivorian leaders.  Thus, it was vital to operate on the basis of the principle of inclusion rather than exclusion.  He stressed that the Council and the African Union should have the possibility of imposing effective sanctions against any of the players who might act wilfully to deny the people of Côte d’Ivoire their right to peace, democracy and development.

The fundamental and long-term solution of the Ivorian crisis required that Côte d’Ivoire should successfully address a whole range of matters, including issues that bore on nationality, political rights, land and co-existence in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.  He added that both the African Union and the United Nations had an obligation to resist the temptation to arrive at short-term solutions that disguised the real problems, and, therefore, created the basis for a more intractable crisis in the future. 

He trusted that the Council was in possession of the reports that the African Union Mediation had submitted to the Union Chairperson, particularly the third report of 9 December 2004, which included the road map.  He continued to pursue that road map with the Ivorian parties as the only available route towards the settlement of the crisis. 

Turning to progress and problems associated with regard to the implementation of the road map, he said that significant progress had been made regarding the adoption of legislation prescribed by the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  While the constitutional text of article 35, relating to the eligibility for the presidency, had been adopted by the National Assembly, the process of amending the Ivorian Constitution in that regard had not been finalized.  It was necessary to finalize that matter as soon as possible, and the African Union Mediation was taking the necessary steps in that regard.

Also, the DDR process should start as soon as the Regroupment/Assembly sites had been prepared, to enable them to receive members of FANCI and the Forces Nouvelles.  In addition, the Government of National Reconciliation, the principal institution responsible for the implementation of the various transitional measures leading up to the presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, was still not functioning effectively.  In part, that was due to the continuing non-participation in the Government of the Ministers of the Forces Nouvelles.  Furthermore, various problems continued to persist regarding the general political and security situation, which undermined the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire.

The African Union Mediation and the Ivorian parties were committed to the holding of the presidential elections in October, as scheduled, he said.  He had communicated a request for United Nations assistance in that regard to the Secretariat and awaited their response.  It was vital to implement the road map in a manner and within time-frames that would ensure that credible elections were held later this year.  To resolve outstanding challenges with implementation, a critical meeting between President Mbeki and the principal political leaders of Côte d’Ivoire would take place in South Africa in six days’ time.

He appealed to the Council to coordinate its future actions on Côte d’Ivoire with the African Union in the interest of genuine peace, stability and development in a united Côte d’Ivoire.  He assured the Council that the Union was unreservedly determined to help resolve the Ivorian crisis within the context of the parameters he had indicated.

MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said he appreciated the efforts of President Mbeki in carrying out the difficult task entrusted to him by the African Union.  He was waiting for the parties to show that they grasped the seriousness of the situation in the upcoming meeting in Pretoria, and the need to work towards a political solution to the crisis.  He supported the involvement of the Union in the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, deeply convinced of the added value of African management of such difficult problems.  While the parties had come a long way since the signing of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, the signals in the field were far from encouraging.  That Agreement remained the sole path towards the unity and future of the country and the stability of the entire subregion.

He noted that, according to the original plan, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration would have been completed by now.  However, DDR had yet to begin; the crime rate was rising; and the lack of confidence between the parties was greater than ever.  Attacks on United Nations personnel or civilians could not be tolerated.  Now was the time for firmer action, including from the Security Council.  A widespread culture of impunity was perpetuating an atmosphere of violence.  Efforts to control the situation were turning out to be insufficient.

Under the present conditions, the schedule for elections seemed to be in jeopardy, he said.  The parties must deal with current problems before proceeding to the elections.  The UNOCI would continue to play an important role in ever increasingly complex circumstances.  He was ready to support the strengthening of UNOCI, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s proposals.  An analysis of its overall mandate could be useful to understanding its limits and its possible operational strengthening.  The African Union, through President Mbeki, had shouldered the task of bridging the gap of confidence among the parties and restarting the peace process.  However, the will of the parties was required to move forward.

JOEL ADECHI (Benin) said the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire was a genuine tragedy.  While the situation continued to deteriorate, the prospects for peace continued to decrease.  The Council’s meeting today was, therefore, important since the protagonists had decided not to heed the appeals and multifaceted efforts of the international community to return them to the path of peace.  It appeared they much preferred the path of violence and confrontation.

It was unquestionable that the peace process was at a critical stage, he said.  The first, and doubtless most urgent, challenge was the restoration of dialogue, which remained the Achilles heel of the peace process.  Benin welcomed the meeting among the protagonists scheduled for Pretoria from which, it was hoped, a vigorous resumption of the process would emerge.  The second major challenge pertained to security.  Benin was deeply concerned by the looming threat that the arming of militias posed to the civilian population, as well as to the security of the subregion as a whole.  It was important to step up the DDR programme, which would definitely improve the chances for improved security.  The third major challenge was that of holding elections, which remained important.

Beyond those major challenges were the humanitarian challenges, especially the situation in the northern regions under the control of the Forces Nouvelles, which were of great concern.  There was a need not only to extend the mandate of UNOCI, but also to expand its human and other resources to enable it to carry out its expanded responsibilities.  It was, however, up to the Ivorians themselves to carry out the peace process.  Benin called upon the Ivorian parties to put to good use the Pretoria meeting and to end the suicidal course of perpetual confrontation.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) appreciated the mediation efforts of President Mbeki and looked forward to a positive outcome from the upcoming meeting in South Africa.  China had always closely followed the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and hoped the country would attain peace and stability as soon as possible.  He was pleased that there had been some positive changes, thanks to President Mbeki’s efforts.  However, he noted that the current political process in Côte d’Ivoire remained at a stalemate, and the security situation remained volatile.

He stressed that all Ivorian parties must honour the commitments made to President Mbeki, as well as their commitments under the road map.  Also, the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement must be fully implemented.  In addition, the parties must continue to turn to dialogue to resolve their problems.  Over the past year, the Council had adopted three resolutions on Côte d’Ivoire, which had played a positive role concerning peace and stability there.   The United Nations must continue to enhance coordination with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others, work with President Mbeki and support the Union’s leading role.  In principle, China endorsed the Secretary-General’s suggestion to extend the mandate of UNOCI.

AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania), noting that it was now over two years since the eruption of the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, expressed appreciation for the speed with which the international community had responded.  The ECOWAS had promptly deployed a peacekeeping force with the full political backing of the African Union.  Concrete peace proposals had been negotiated and had led to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, revisited and reaffirmed in Accra.  The response of the United Nations had been equally swift, starting with resolution 1464 of 4 February 2003, which had firmly supported the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.

It was disappointing that the early spirited responses and subsequent efforts to end the crisis had failed, so far, to produce the desired result, he said.  The ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003 remained shaky, as clearly demonstrated by the events of 28 February 2004 and the November 2004 crisis, when the situation had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.  Neither the Linas-Marcoussis nor the Accra III Agreement had been fully implemented, and it was against that worrisome background that President Mbeki’s initiative must be seen and appreciated.  It was the responsibility of all interested in seeing an end to the crisis to ensure that the Mbeki initiative succeeded.  It was, above all, the responsibility of the protagonists in the Ivorian crisis to guarantee the success of those peace efforts.

He said that the international community could not replace, or substitute for, the political will of the Ivorian leadership and people to move the peace process forward, facilitated by the various peace frameworks already on the table and the support of the Security Council.  President Mbeki’s initiative enjoyed the support of all the political forces in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the support of ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations.  His proposals were useful and innovative in creating a conducive atmosphere for a breakthrough.  One of the biggest challenges in support of the initiative was to come up with appropriate incentives to sustain the current positive political atmosphere of compromise and to move towards a situation where all parties had a shared stake in a new political dispensation.  The Security Council should work with him in identifying and applying the appropriate mix of incentives and other measures in the context of previous Security Council resolutions.

STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) commended the work of President Mbeki in his efforts to mediate between the parties, and the work of the African Union in addressing the crisis.  He called on the Ivorian parties to respect their commitments under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, which had been called into question several times over the past year.  He also called on them to show the true spirit of reconciliation in the upcoming meeting in Pretoria.  He continued to be concerned by the humanitarian situation in the country.

He added that he continued to have questions of the utility of strengthening UNOCI, given the lack of will shown by the parties to move the peace process forward.  It was critical that UNOCI use all available tools at its disposal.  He called on all parties to reduce the level of violence and renew their commitment to the rule of law.  In addition, he commended the mission in Côte d’Ivoire for its efforts to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said the international community had placed great hopes on the efforts of South Africa, and President Mbeki, in helping to extricate Côte d’Ivoire from the crisis in which it found itself.  The stakes were high for Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivorians.  For two years, the country was fragmented and was becoming increasingly impoverished day by day.  The stakes were also high for the West African region as a whole.  If Côte d’Ivoire collapsed, the entire region would be destabilized for a long time to come.  The continuation of a major crisis on the continent was unacceptable.  Despite efforts, Côte d’Ivoire was very far from returning to the path of reconciliation.

He observed that the Ivorian parties had not abandoned the military option.  They must know that the international community would never agree to settling crises by force or arms, and would see to compliance with the arms embargo.  In such a context, a strengthening of UNOCI was very urgent. Also, the disinformation campaign was persisting in the media in Côte d’Ivoire.  In addition, the political situation remained deadlocked, and no major progress had been made on the key elements of the reconciliation process.  The militia continued to persist and posed a serious threat to the country’s stability.  Furthermore, article 35 was still not revised.  Those obstacles must be overcome.

Today, he stated, time was running out.  Everything possible must be done to ensure that elections were held according to schedule.  If they could not be held in October as planned, Côte d’Ivoire would be embarking into unknown territory.  The efforts of President Mbeki, therefore, were vital.  France fully supported the mediation efforts begun by President Mbeki, and he must succeed in his task.  The talks in Pretoria would be critical and must allow for the resumption of the peace process.  He added that the decision taken with regard to UNOCI’s mandate would be decisive.  In that regard, he proposed the renewal of UNOCI for one month, to allow the Council necessary time for its work and to permit it to have President Mbeki’s report on the Pretoria meeting.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the situation in Côte d’Ivoire was running out of control and called upon all parties involved to take up their responsibilities and put aside their political calculations and narrow ambitions.  President Mbeki had gone to considerable pains to meet the objectives of all concerned, and it must be recognized that the parties had not resolutely opted for peace and reconciliation.  Everything must be done to ensure that the elections were held on the date planned.  The worst possible scenario would be deadlock in October.  To avoid that eventuality, the Forces nouvelles must take up their ministerial positions in the Government of National Reconciliation and begin disarming immediately.

The UNOCI mission had been planned to help the Ivorians implement the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Agreement, as well as the Accra accords, he said.  However, because of the way things were, its mandate and rules of engagement were subject to changing conditions and it had become a stabilization mission.  It had been led to take up tasks for which it was not necessarily prepared.  Any re-examination of UNOCI’s role must take that into account.  The international community certainly did not want to see the mission remain powerless in the face of a possible deterioration of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and a re-examination of its mandate remained was indispensable.

KENZO OSHIMA (Japan), sharing the deep concern over the existing stalemate in the political process in Côte d’Ivoire, regretted that the strong will of the Ivorian parties for a negotiated solution seemed sorely lacking.  In those difficult circumstances, the efforts of the African Union and ECOWAS became all the more important.  In that connection, he highlighted three points.  First, he hoped that the mediation effort of President Mbeki would be intensified in the following weeks.  Second, all Ivorian parties must be made fully aware that any failure to cooperate in the facilitation of President Mbeki’s efforts would render them subject to the sanctions regime in accordance with resolution 1572.

Thirdly, he strongly commended the effort made by UNOCI and the Licorne to maintain security and stability in the tenuous situation in Côte d’Ivoire, and recognized that UNOCI was playing an increasingly important role in the country.  On the other hand, given the degree of interconnectedness among the conflict situations in the region of West Africa, it would be appropriate to review the operational concepts of the various United Nations peace missions there with a view to bringing inter-mission synergies among them.

He added that while the peace and reconciliation process was at an impasse, the socio-economic and humanitarian situation of the country continued to deteriorate, directly affecting the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  International and United Nations humanitarian relief efforts must be supported.  Now, more than ever, the Council and the international community must seriously consider taking steps to regain the commitment of all Ivorian parties to the peace process.

ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said he was deeply concerned by the instability in Côte d’Ivoire and the lengthy lack of progress in reaching a settlement.  Despite the outstanding efforts of President Mbeki, the Ivorian peace process remained blocked.  The political stagnation was fraught with the danger of the resumption of hostilities.  Also, the continuing deadlock posed a threat to the timely holding of elections.  Everything must be done to ensure that those elections were held on time.  If they were not, the constitutional system could be threatened.  Another concern was the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

He said that the full responsibility for searching for solutions lay with the Ivorian citizens.  He called on the parties to demonstrate political will and implement the commitments under President Mbeki’s road map, including the revision of article 35 and the launching of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  He took note of the particular role that could be played by neighbouring States, and shared the concern of the Secretary-General of the incitement to hate and violence in the media, as well as the widespread threat to United Nations peacekeepers and civilians, which was unacceptable.  The complex situation in the security area was clearly complicating the work of the United Nations operation in Côte d’Ivoire to carry out its mandate within existing resources.  He agreed with the Secretary-General on the need to strengthen UNOCI and to extend it for one year.

CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said the overall situation of Côte d’Ivoire was far from the best:  there was a de facto division of the country; the ceasefire had recently been violated by 100 armed elements who had attacked the Forces nouvelles; there was a lack of agreement on procedures for amending article 35 of the Constitution relating to the eligibility of candidates for the country’s presidency; the irregular recruitment of troops by the national armed forces; and the delay in implementing the reforms necessary to make it possible to hold a presidential election in October.

He emphasized that the international community, the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS could not replace the need for genuine political will of all parties to the conflict to respect the genuine letter and spirit of the Linas-Marcoussis and Accra III agreements.  As identified by the African Union and the Secretary-General, those measures could be summed up as:  the creation of a climate of peace and confidence; constitutional and electoral reform; ensuring the functioning and composition of a transitional national government; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, including all militias; facilitating the resumption of national institutions; and extending the authority of the national police and gendarmerie throughout the country.

Argentina reiterated its full support for the mediation by South Africa on behalf of the African Union, he said.  It was important that the Council receive a regular update on the situation as part of that process.  The forthcoming meeting in Pretoria could be an important step in the search for a political solution to the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire and the subregion.  Sanctions should be applied against anyone placing obstacles in the way of the application of the peace agreements, as well as against any other violations of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire.  The UNOCI, which had been able to manage its mandate in difficult conditions, must continue to have the support it needed and should continue with its work.  Argentina supported the extension of its mandate for 12 months.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said that the Ivorian parties, particularly those controlling the militia groups, should exercise restraint on them and hold their leaders accountable for their attacks on civilians and peacekeepers.  Human rights abuses continued to take place, without perpetrators being brought to justice.  That climate of impunity and insecurity might further heighten tensions.  The implementation of the Council’s resolutions regarding the arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire was of utmost importance for the improvement of the security situation in the country.  Taking into account the lack of progress in the peace process, he agreed with the Secretary-General’s suggestion to reinforce the capacity of UNOCI and to provide it with additional measures to fulfil more effectively its difficult mandate.

The arms embargo, he continued, was an obligation binding on all Member States.  In his capacity as Chairman of the Committee established under paragraph 14 of resolution 1572 (2004), he appealed to all Member States of the region, which had not yet done so, to submit to the Committee the relevant information on national measures that they had taken for the strict implementation of the arms embargo.  If the situation continued to be of a volatile nature, the Committee would have no other option but to proceed to the full implementation of resolutions 1572 and 1584 against those obstructing the peace process and committing violations of human rights.

BAYANI MERCADO (Philippines) said that the Linas-Marcoussis and Accra III agreements had shown great promise, but the peace process was experiencing serious setbacks.  The threat of insecurity continued to rise as both parties violated the ceasefire.  There was a potential for a serious crisis that could jeopardize not only the security of Côte d’Ivoire, but also that of the subregion as a whole.  Inasmuch as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were closely linked to a resolution of the crisis, those and other questions had to be ironed out as soon as possible.

Saying he had taken note of suggestions that African countries should provide additional forces to secure DDR sites, he added that the Philippine delegation also concurred with the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend UNOCI’s mandate for 12 months.  The holding of today’s Council’s meeting was just one way of sending a message to the Ivorian parties that they must bring the peace process to a successful conclusion.  However, as peace ultimately rested in their hands, they must be made to understand the hard compromises that they had to make.  Restoring trust between the parties was also an important part of any solution, and the meeting scheduled for Pretoria would be a key event towards that end.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that the magnitude of the difficulties faced in Côte d’Ivoire was clear.  A great debt was owed to President Mbeki for his mediation efforts.  He supported the mediation efforts to bring the peace process back on track, and was most concerned with the current situation, which was marked by uncontrolled militias, continued abuse of human rights and a pervasive sense of impunity, among other things.

In considering how to tackle those challenges, it was necessary to contemplate how to ensure that all Ivorian parties lived up to their commitments under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  Also, it was important to prepare well for the elections later this year.  He supported an increased United Nations role, if that was requested by all Ivorian parties.  The Secretary-General had underlined the strain on UNOCI’s current capacity and had asked for more resources.  It must be ensured that the Council’s strategy in Côte d’Ivoire, the number of troops, mandate, rules of engagement and tasks given to the Operation were all fully consistent with each other.  It was necessary to look at how those requirements fit together in considering UNOCI’s extension.  Therefore, he supported Ambassador de la Sablière’s proposal for a one-month rollover until a decision was taken.

LARS FAABORG-ANDERSEN (Denmark) said that Côte d’Ivoire was still balancing on the brink, and there was a clear need to act prudently and swiftly.  He strongly supported the tireless efforts of President Mbeki to mediate between the parties.  He hoped for a constructive and forward-looking outcome of the Pretoria meeting this coming week.  There was a need for a strong re-engagement of all key external actors and a clearer division of labour between South Africa, the African Union, the United Nations, ECOWAS and other key actors in supporting the implementation of the crucial next steps in the peace process –- the broader electoral framework and electoral process, the DDR and the fight against impunity.

Secondly, the lack of progress in the implementation of the peace agreements and the current reign of militias should lead to reflection on the goals and conditions for international peacekeepers.  A stronger presence of regional actors should be discussed, and United Nations inter-mission cooperation in West Africa should be further developed.  He shared the Secretary-General’s view on the need to strengthen UNOCI and extend its presence for the coming year.  Thirdly, he believed one message should be made very clear to the Ivorian parties -- action spoke louder than words.  Pressure on the parties should be stepped up.  When pressure faded, so did political progress.  The increasing lawlessness in Côte d’Ivoire was precisely the result of the culture of impunity.

Council President RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil), speaking in his national capacity, said that the most worrisome aspect of the current situation in Côte d’Ivoire seemed to be the proliferation of militias.  New armed groups appeared to be constantly mushrooming in the country, and the situation could not be dealt with from a political perspective alone.  The traffic of small arms had to be curtailed and options must be made available to the unemployed youth of Côte d’Ivoire.

Also related to security was the capacity to convey the right messages to the population in an effective manner.  In that regard, he commended the work carried out by the public information section of UNOCI, particularly UNOCI FM, for the expansion of its outreach and for its increased monitoring of messages aired by local media.  The Secretary-General’s report also referred to initiatives by Ivorian radio and television authorities which could compromise UNOCI’s radio broadcasting.  The station’s role and independence must be preserved.

The Council, he said, should be able to assist UNOCI in minimizing all security risks in the country.  That included making good use of measures against those individuals preventing the peace process from moving forward.  And that included the Council giving favourable consideration to the Secretary-General’s request for strengthening UNOCI’s capacity to deal with insecurity and to fully enforce the arms embargo.

On the electoral process, he said it was crucial that all Ivorian parties understand that peace would remain elusive without free and fair elections.  The elections scheduled for later this year might only be held if there was sufficient security on the ground and if certain preconditions were met.  The continuing impasse between the major actors jeopardized the October elections and, by way of consequence, the stability of the entire region.  He urged the Government and rebel forces to seize the opportunity offered by the upcoming meeting in Pretoria and to work constructively with the mediation team.

PHILIPPE DJANGONÉ-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) said that President Mbeki had the support of all the Ivorian parties in his efforts to mediate the conflict in his country.  The Côte d’Ivoire delegation took note of the Secretary-General’s report with interest and while awaiting more detailed instructions from the capital .

Proceeding to clarify several paragraphs of the report, he said it constantly called into question the position of the legitimate Government, which would encourage and give comfort to the former rebels.  The President of the Republic had declared several times his intention to submit the revision of article 35 of the Constitution to a referendum, a proposal that had been rejected repeatedly.  Asking him to use discretionary powers was not acceptable.  The President had no choice but to respect the Constitution, to which he had sworn his allegiance.

He concluded by saying that he was awaiting fuller and more exhaustive comments from his Government and, with regard to the renewal of UNOCI’s mandate, the Government would make its position known following the 3 April meeting in Pretoria.

Taking the floor a second time, Mr. DOSS said that he had taken note of the points made by the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, and there were some areas which needed to be clarified, such as the relationship between Logoualé and the national defence forces.  The issue of delegation of powers was in reference to the fact that a decree had been signed by the President, but had not been put into effect.  The African Union Mediation was dealing with the issue of article 35, which would be at the centre of discussions in Pretoria.  Regarding legislation, he had simply presented his views based on the legislation adopted.

Mr. PAHAD (South Africa) said that there was clearly some concern about the security situation and the lack of movement in the peace process.  However, in the context of what had happened in the past few months, some progress had been made.  The leaders had all repudiated war, and accepted that a solution was in the immediate interest of the region and the continent as a whole.  There was no debate about the unity and territorial integrity of Cote d’Ivoire, or about working within the Linas-Marcoussis and Accra Agreements.  They also agreed that, despite difficulties, the presidential elections must take place as scheduled and that all those wishing to run be allowed to do so.  In addition, there was agreement on implementing the road map presented by the African Union Mediation.

It was the responsibility of the Ivorian leadership to use the opportunity that still existed for dialogue and move decisively forward to break any logjams on the major issues identified –- the revision of article 35, DDR and the effective functioning of State institutions.  He expressed his desire to work more closely with the African Union and to report back to the Council on the outcome of the Pretoria meeting.

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For information media. Not an official record.