Security Council Welcomes 18 August Liberia Peace Agreement, Reaffirms Readiness to Deploy UN Force by 1 October
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Briefs Council, Appeals for Lifting of All Sanctions, Except Arms Embargo
NEW YORK, 27 August (UN Headquarters) -- Welcoming the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 18 August reached by Liberia's Government, rebel groups, political parties, and civil society leaders, the Security Council today urged the parties to fully respect the ceasefire and to fully implement all of their commitments under that Agreement, following a ministerial-level briefing by senior officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Through a presidential statement (S/PRST/2003/14) read out by Council President Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), the Council reaffirmed its readiness to establish by 1 October a United Nations stabilization force -- a follow on to the ECOWAS-led force now in the country -- to support the transitional government and assist in implementation of the Agreement. In urging implementation of the commitments under the Agreement, the Council highlighted, among them, the establishment of a Joint Monitoring Committee, which it said was a critical aspect of the peace process.
Also expressing its ongoing concern over the continuing dire humanitarian situation of much of the Liberian population, the Council called on all parties to allow full, secure and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies and personnel. It also stressed the need to create a secure environment, which enabled respect for human rights, including the well-being and rehabilitation of children, especially child combatants; protected the well-being of civilians; and supported the humanitarian workers.
Prior to reading out that statement, the Council President called attention to the presence at the meeting of: the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana and current Chairman of ECOWAS, Nana Akufo Addo; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Côte d'Ivoire, Bamba Mamadou; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, François Fall; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Oluyemi Adeniji; Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations, Papa Louis Fall; and Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
The Council President called today's event extraordinary and exceptional in the life of the people of Liberia, who had suffered for so long and who deserved the fullest attention of the Council, in order to end the suffering and chart a course for development and progress.
The Chairman of ECOWAS and Foreign Affairs Minister of Ghana told the Council that ECOWAS was determined to ensure stability, not only in Liberia itself, but also in the whole Mano River Union area. The signing of the Peace Agreement was a significant step. A successful ceasefire was critical for the deployment of the international stabilization force, as well as the return of humanitarian agencies and refugees. Consequently, every effort should be made to assist ECOWAS' vanguard force in Liberia until the international stabilization force was deployed. A follow-up resolution of the Council should give effect to the 1 October deadline for the start-up of the United Nations operation.
The Executive Secretary of ECOWAS hailed the Council's visit to West Africa in June as having buttressed the position of the African Union and ECOWAS that no group that sought to attain political power by force of arms would obtain international recognition. It had provided assurances that, if Liberians demonstrated a resolve to end the war and agree on a comprehensive accord, the country would return to normal and the Council would authorize a peacekeeping operation and galvanize international assistance. Among the issues requiring special attention was the urgent need to curb the small arms proliferation in West Africa, including through the establishment of a formal register of arms brokers. He also appealed to the Council to lift all of the sanctions against Liberia, except the arms embargo.
The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.
The full text of the statement to be issued as S/PRST/2003/14, read as follows:
"The Security Council welcomes the briefing provided by representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Côte d'Ivoire Bamba Mamadou, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea François Fall, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria Oluyemi Adeniji, Permanent Representative of Senegal Ambassador Papa Louis Fall, and Executive Secretary of ECOWAS Ambassador Mohamed Ibn Chambas, on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached in Accra, Ghana on 18 August 2003.
"The Security Council welcomes the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached by Liberia's Government, rebel groups, political parties, and civil society leaders in Accra, Ghana on 18 August 2003.
"The Security Council appreciates the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), particularly organization Chairman Kufuor, Executive Secretary Chambas, and mediator General Abubakar in negotiating this agreement.
"The Security Council remains concerned at the situation in Liberia, particularly the continuing dire humanitarian situation of much of the population. It calls on all parties to allow full, secure and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies and personnel.
"The Security Council again stressed the need to create a secure environment that enables respect for human rights, including the well-being and rehabilitation of children, especially child combatants, protects the well-being of civilians, and supports the mission of humanitarian workers.
"The Security Council pays tribute to the donors that are supporting the deployment of ECOMIL, encourages all Member States to provide financial, logistical and material support to the Member States participating in the ECOWAS-led force, and calls on the donor community to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those in need in Liberia.
"The Security Council urges all parties to respect fully the ceasefire and to implement fully all their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Accra on 18 August, including through full cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States' Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), the United Nations, the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL), the African Union (AU), and the United States to establish a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), which is a critical aspect of the Liberian peace process, as required under the Accra agreement.
"The Security Council reaffirms its readiness as stated in paragraph 2 of its resolution 1497 of 1 August 2003 (S/RES/1497) to establish a follow-on United Nations stabilization force to support the transitional government and to assist in the implementation of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Liberia."
Briefing by ECOWAS
NANA AKUFO ABDO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that several recent Council missions that had visited the troubled West African region, were testament to the fact that it continued to be at the centre of the Council's attention. For its part, ECOWAS, with the assistance of the African Union and the international community, was determined to ensure stability not only in Liberia itself, but also in the whole Mano River Union. In that connection, he wanted to express his gratitude to the United Nations for its contributions to the peace process in Sierra Leone.
He went on to list several initiatives on Liberia, which included a March 2002 meeting in Abuja, which lay the ground for a National Reconciliation Conference in Liberia; the meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and the Security Council in Dakar in March 2002; the Summit of the ECOWAS Heads of State in May 2002; the Liberian Leadership Forum in July 2002; the meeting of the Liberian inter-religious council and ECOWAS; and the United Nations workshop on the Mano River Union. In the aftermath of those meetings, a decision was taken to establish an international contact group on Liberia to assist ECOWAS and the United Nations in their efforts to restore peace in Liberia.
Following meetings of the Contact Group to ensure the widest possible participation, on 4 June 2003, peace negotiations on Liberia had begun in earnest, he said. The parties involved signed a ceasefire agreement two weeks after the beginning of the negotiations, which later culminated in the signing of the Accra accord. The mediators had criss-crossed the region to bring together all those involved in the peace process. The departure of President Taylor on 11 August was of particular importance as a necessary condition for the restoration of peace in Liberia. The entire ECOWAS community was thankful to Nigeria and its President for offering political asylum to the former President and deploying troops to help stabilize the country.
The first troops belonging to the interposition force had been deployed in Liberia on 4 August, he continued. The force, which was currently made up of 1,696 men, was expected to increase to about 3,500 by 4 September. It had been deployed with the assistance of the United Nations and the United States. Peace was gradually returning to Liberia, as the guns were beginning to fall silent. He commended the Secretary-General and the President of the United States for their personal commitment to the cause of peace in Liberia. However, it was with a certain anxiety that he had witnessed the withdrawal of the United States marines to their ship this week.
The signing of the Accra agreement marked a significant step in Liberia, he said, and now, the international community, ECOWAS and regional players should work towards its full implementation, continuing the efforts to uphold legality and avoid providing any reward for insurgency. He emphasized the importance of the agreement by broad sections of Liberian society on the transitional government to take power later this year, adding that the country's leadership should come from civil society, and not from insurgents.
The agreement provided an opportunity to reaffirm some principles, that were very dear to ECOWAS, he continued, such as: disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants; security sector reform; restructuring of the security forces; release of prisoners and abductees; human rights and humanitarian issues; settlement of disputes; electoral reform; establishment of the transitional government; and credible elections in October 2005 among the priorities in Liberia. Much would depend on the adherence of the combatants to the ceasefire, commitment of the parties to their obligations under the agreement and support of the international community.
Deployment of the international stabilization force, as well as the return of humanitarian agencies and refugees would depend on the success of the ceasefire, he stressed. Consequently, every effort should be made to assist the ECOWAS vanguard force in Liberia until the international stabilization force was deployed. He believed a follow-up resolution of the Council should give effect to the 1 October deadline for the start-up of the United Nations operation. The Council must meet that deadline. The world community must work in unison to ensure that different parties fulfilled their obligations under the agreement. The international community should also give its full support to the committee responsible for monitoring the peace agreement.
In conclusion, he said that in 1997, a golden opportunity had been lost in Liberia. "We cannot repeat that tragic error", he stressed. This time, the goals of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration must be fully achieved. Even after the deployment of the stabilization force, the efforts of ECOWAS should continue.
MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said that the Council's visit to West Africa in June had not only given further impetus and structure to the collaboration and continuing dialogue, but had served to catalyse the Accra peace talks. The Council had encouraged the Liberian stakeholders to utilize dialogue and negotiation to settle their differences, rather than violence and war, which, over the years, had ruined their country.
Further, he said that the Council had buttressed the position of the African Union and ECOWAS that no group which sought to attain political power by force of arms would obtain international recognition. The Council had warned that those who took lightly the lives of others with impunity and disregard for international humanitarian law would not go unpunished. It had also offered its firm support to the peace process with assurances that, if Liberians demonstrated a resolve to end the war and agree on a comprehensive accord, the country would return to normalcy and the Council, in turn, would authorize a peacekeeping operation and galvanize international humanitarian reconstruction and development assistance.
Three issues now required special attention, he said. The first was the issue of armed groups, which had moved about freely from one country to the other in the Mano River Union area and also in Côte d'Ivoire. The armed groups in Liberia had, among them, several thousand nationals of other West African countries, including, especially, a significant number of Sierra Leoneans. That matter deserved special attention, as those armed elements threatened the peace, which now prevailed in Sierra Leone. Conscious and deliberate efforts should be directed at their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into Sierra Leonean society; they should not be allowed to infiltrate back into Sierra Leone with their weapons.
Second, he continued, now that the conflict was coming under control, attention should be paid to the urgent need to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa. Nowhere had the damaging consequences of those arms been felt more than in Liberia and the Mano River Union countries. ECOWAS wished to cooperate with the international community in identifying ways to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit arms brokering, which played a key role in facilitating illegal transfers of arms to groups prevented from buying them legally, such as those States and groups under arms embargoes, organized criminals and terrorists. Arms producing States should establish a formal register of arms brokers.
He also drew the Council's attention to the need to review the current sanctions regime against Liberia. He recalled that they had been imposed by the Council for Liberia's support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and the failure of the government of former President Taylor to respect the Council's resolutions. Today, the interim government of President Blah not only denounced any support for rebel groups that might seek to overthrow governments of neighbouring countries, but it also sought to build good-neighbourly relations based on friendship and cooperation. On 14 October, a Transitional Government would be inaugurated, pursuant to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of Accra.
Maintaining the current sanctions regime would doubtless make it impossible for that Transitional Government to function effectively, he stressed. He, therefore, appealed strongly to the Council to consider lifting all of the sanctions, except the arms embargo, as a further signal of support for the success of the Liberian peace process.
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