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08.11.2004 Business & Finance

ECOWAS-EU Ministerial Troika meeting opens

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Accra, Nov. 8, GNA - The Sixth Economic Community of West African States - European Union (ECOWAS-EU) Ministerial Troika meeting started in Accra on Monday to review and chart new frontiers toward the peace and security in the West Africa Sub-Region.

The meeting, which is co-haired by Mrs Agnes Van Ardenne, Leader of the EU Delegation and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Ghana's Foreign Minister, would look at ways the EU could assist to improve security and economic integration.

Nana Akufo-Addo opened the meeting with an overview of the peace and security developments in the Sub-Region zeroing on developments in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He said the significant developments achieved so far sounded a note of hope and encouragement but also concern in the pursuit of lasting peace and sustainable economic progress.

He noted that the renewed tension in Cote d'Ivoire resulting from the stalemate in the peace process, the outbreak of violence in Guinea Bissau and the Muslim-Christian violence in Liberia were negative developments.

Giving an update on Cote d'Ivoire, the Foreign Minister announced that last Saturday President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the African Union (AU), convened a meeting in Nigeria and nominated President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to lead a delegation to Abidjan for a mediation process.

He said the Accra III Agreement for implementation of pertinent provisions of the Marcoussis Accord still remained the way forward for lasting peace in Cote d'Ivoire.

The peace process reached a stalemate because of the failure by the Ivorian parties to abide by the September 30 timeframe set by the Accra III Accord for the Ivorian Government to submit to Parliament for adoption of bills on citizenship, land ownership and eligibility of the Presidency.

On Guinea Bissau, Nana Akufo-Addo said despite the gradual restoration of the constitutional order, the October 6 incident in which a group of mutinous soldiers killed the Chief of Defence Staff along with the head of human resources had interrupted the smooth process. He said, however, the Bissau Government and the mutineers had struck an accord to end the dispute under efforts spearheaded by the AU, ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.

"Guinea Bissau's worsening security situation is closely linked to its dire economic and financial situation resulting from its neglect by the international community," Nana Akufo-Addo said.

Nana Akufo-Addo expressed satisfaction about Liberia saying: "In spite of the constraints encountered in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the process has chalked tremendous progress."

He said over 80,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed, but there was a number of ex-rebels still present in parts of the countryside that were inaccessible by vehicles. As a result they used their guns to extort items and harass innocent civilians.

He said the major concern for the National Transitional Government of Liberia was the reluctance of donors to fund the costly restructuring exercise in the country. Preparations for the country's 2005 elections had begun, he added.

Nana Akufo-Addo noted that, notwithstanding, the progress made in Sierra Leone, the maintenance of the peacekeeping force was still necessary in order to consolidate the peace, improve the security situation and strengthen the authority of the government. Mrs Ardenne said ECOWAS remained a crucial institution as far as improving peace and security in the Sub-Region were concerned and the EU was committed to lend its support.

She lauded the efforts and success chalked so far by ECOWAS in the peace process in some of the troubled countries.

Mrs Ardenne condemned the attack on the French Peacekeeping Forces in Cote d'Ivoire and a radio and television announcement, which, she said, called for violence against foreigners in the country. She called on parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire agreement saying: "Immediate disarmament is required".

"The EU is ready to assist ECOWAS towards that effort and we also welcome the stance taken in Nigeria by President Obasanjo to intervene in the Cote d'Ivoire crisis."

Mrs Ardenne said the EU was concerned about the quality of the peace process and disarmament in Liberia because events during the past week had shown that all was not well.

"There is no reconciliation process in place and possible steps need to be taken to improve the situation on arms flow between Liberia and Guinea Bissau," she said. 08 Nov. 04

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