The United Nations publicly apologized to Belarus today for an inaccurate report from its mission in Côte d’Ivoire that Belarus had supplied attack helicopters to former President Laurent Gbagbo in violation of an arms embargo on the strife-torn West African country.
“This [is a] troubling event and a mistaken report,” Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy, head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told a news briefing of the account that a Belarussian plane had landed in Côte d’Ivoire on Sunday evening.
Mr. Le Roy noted that the information came from a report given to the Group of Experts established by the Security Council to monitor the arms embargo against Côte d'Ivoire regarding three attack helicopters and related equipment that were going to be delivered to the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.
On Sunday evening, the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said it had received reports that a flight corresponding to this description landed at Yamoussoukro. Given the seriousness of the issue, it was decided to raise the matter publicly.
“I presented on behalf of DPKO and the United Nations our deep regret and apologies to Belarus and I welcome particularly the fact that… the Belarussian authorities have reconfirmed their full compliance with the embargo,” he said after meeting with Belarussian Charge d’Affaires Zoya Kolonta.
Belarus has checked that none of their private company is engaged in any arms deal in Côte d’Ivoire, he said, apologizing for any harm caused.
“It was UNOCI making the wrong report and of course as head of DPKO I take the blame for that,” said Mr. Le Roy, adding that such mistaken UN reports are extremely rare since DPKO places a high premium on the accuracy of its reporting.
The Security Council imposed the embargo in 2004 after a civil war in 2002 split the country into a rebel-held north and a Government-controlled south. The country has been thrown into turmoil by Mr. Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in last November’s run-off poll.
Tensions have since risen, with Gbagbo loyalists attacking UN convoys and civilians in Abidjan, the commercial capital, and UN officials have voiced concerns over a possible resumption of civil war.
UNOCI was set up in 2004 by the Council to facilitate the peace process that ended fighting in the 2002 war, leading to last year’s elections, which were meant to be a culminating point in the reunification of the country, the world’s largest cocoa producer.