Meeting in an emergency session after French forces in Côte d'Ivoire were attacked and the Ivorian Government stepped up air strikes against rebel-held areas in the north, the United Nations Security Council today called for an end to fighting in the West African country.
Ambassador John C. Danforth of the United States, current President of the Council, read out a statement on its behalf condemning the attacks, which reportedly killed eight French troops and one US soldier while wounding some two dozen others.
“The Security Council demands the immediate cessation of all military operations by all Ivorian parties and full compliance with the ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003,” the US Ambassador said.
He confirmed that the French forces and the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) – which together have been monitoring a “Zone of Confidence” separating the divided country – are authorized “to use all necessary means” in discharging their mandates.
UNOCI, the Council President pointed out, “is authorized to prevent any hostile action, in particular within the Zone of Confidence.”
The Government of Côte d'Ivoire and the rebel Forces Nouvelles were called on to refrain from any violence against civilians and to cooperate fully with UNOCI. “The Security Council firmly reminds all parties of the need to guarantee the security and freedom of movement of all UN personnel,” Mr. Danforth said.
He said the Council will soon examine “further actions, including individual measures to be taken.”
Also responding to the crisis, Secretary-General Kofi Annan contacted the leaders of Côte d'Ivoire, France, Nigeria and Ghana in an urgent round of telephone diplomacy.
“I think it is important that everyone remains calm,” Mr. Annan told reporters after the emergency Council session. “I've been discussing these issues to find means to calm the situation.”
He echoed the Council's call for an immediate end to hostilities. “It is important that the President calms the population so that they stop violent demonstrations,” he said.
“We don't want to see the situation aggravated,” the Secretary-General stressed, adding that this had been his message to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who “did tell me that he was going to end [the violence], so we'll wait and see.”