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Leaders and people of Côte d'Ivoire hold key to peace – Annan

Leaders and people of Côte d'Ivoire hold key to peace – Annan

(L-R) President Chirac, Kofi Annan & President Bongo
Côte d'Ivoire's leaders and people hold the key to lasting peace in their country, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Paris, where the parties have signed an accord aimed at ending their months-long conflict.

Speaking at a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac and South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mr. Annan, who grew up in neighbouring Ghana, recalled his impressions of Côte d'Ivoire. "The Ivory Coast I knew was a peaceful Ivory Coast, which was an island of stability in the region," he said, noting that currently, the country "is in turmoil and in distress, and it is something that most of us in the region would never have expected."

He predicted that if the parties adhered in good faith to their agreement, "we will come out of this crisis" and stressed the obligation of the leaders to deliver on their promises. "The Ivorians who have been asking for peace, who have been asking for the end of the conflict, who have been suffering for the past few months, deserve stability and peace." At the same time, he voiced hope that "the population will work with the leaders" towards this end.

Responding to questions from the press, the Secretary-General emphasized that the leaders themselves had brokered their accord. "It is an agreement entered into willingly by all the parties to bring peace, stability and maintain the territorial integrity of the country," he said, stressing that peace "cannot be imposed" from without.

Asked about the UN's role in supporting the peace process, he said the Security Council would take up the issue of Côte d'Ivoire on Tuesday. "I would expect it down the line to discuss further concrete measures to support the Agreement," he added.

Currently, the UN is working hard on the humanitarian front, assisting internally displaced people and refugees, he pointed out. "We are bringing in food to help the needy," he said. "We have been very active on the question of human rights; we just sent in a team to investigate human rights abuses." The team's report is expected to be released next week.