24 May 2006

Secretary-General Calls for International Contact Group's Continued Support to Overcome Challenges in Still Volatile Mano River Basin

NEW YORK, 23 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the 12th session of the International Contact Group on the Mano River Basin, in Vienna today, 23 May, as delivered by Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia:

It gives me pleasure to send my greetings to the participants in this important meeting of the International Contact Group. I commend the role you are playing in promoting peace and reconciliation in the Mano River Basin, and for your support of United Nations peace operations in West Africa.  The Contact Group's resolve has contributed greatly to the progress made in establishing and consolidating peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in helping to keep the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire on track.  I am also grateful to the donor community for the considerable assistance that they have provided to these countries.

Liberia has entered an era of hope, and has an opportunity to rebuild and pursue national reconciliation.  Since her inauguration in January of this year, President Johnson-Sirleaf has showed real determination in tackling the difficult issues of corruption and economic governance.  In addition, following her official request, former President Taylor was handed over to Liberia, and subsequently transferred to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he will answer charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, Liberia still needs the continued support of the international community in addressing a number of critical tasks.  These include completing the reintegration and resettlement of ex-combatants, internally displaced persons and refugees; restructuring and reforming the army and the police; consolidating State authority throughout the country; meeting the conditions for the lifting of sanctions; cultivating a culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law; and carrying out the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  I call on the Contact Group to continue its active support in these crucial areas.

In Sierra Leone, the Government is making steady progress in consolidating peace.  But, to ensure lasting stability and development, Sierra Leone will need to continue its efforts to promote good governance, implement long-term economic policies, tackle youth unemployment, strengthen the judicial system and protect human rights.  It will also have to prepare for the conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007.  In addition, I earnestly hope that Sierra Leone and Guinea will resolve the territorial dispute over the border area around Yenga village.  I urge the Contact Group to provide encouragement and support to the Government of Sierra Leone in addressing and overcoming these challenges.

I welcome the recent positive developments in Côte d'Ivoire.  The international community must now support the Government's efforts to kick-start the simultaneous processes of identification and disarmament countrywide.  Time is running out, and there is a risk that the parties may not meet the election deadline set by Security Council resolution 1633.  In order to maintain momentum in implementing the road map for peace, I encourage the Contact Group to press the Ivorian parties to honour their obligations under existing peace agreements.  The United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire will continue to do everything it can to support the process, and I hope that the Security Council will provide the additional resources required for that purpose.

While the overall situation in Guinea appears to be somewhat stable, the political climate remains polarized, and the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate.  The internal political situation must not be allowed to deteriorate, as this could spill over and threaten gains towards peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  I ask the Contact Group to continue to support the dialogue among the various segments of Guinean society, as they strive to reach consensus on their country's transitional arrangements.  At the same time, it would be important to encourage the Government to continue implementing the political and socio-economic reforms, which it began in 2005.

Meetings of the Contact Group continue to be an important forum for exchanging ideas and coordinating approaches to some of the most challenging problems in the subregion.  I commend the co-Chairs for convening this session, and offer my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.

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