Mbeki: Côte d'Ivoire rivals must talk to end crisis

Staff Reporter

Thabo Mbeki says only talks between Côte d'Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara can end their political deadlock.

Former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki says only head-to-head talks between Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara can end their political deadlock, a report said on Monday.

“The only way to resolve the Ivorian crisis is to persuade Gbagbo and Ouattara to enter into negotiations to reach an acceptable settlement,” said a leaked copy of a report by Mbeki, the African Union mediator, dated December 7.

“If this is not done, it is virtually certain that the country will engage in a very destructive war which will inevitably result in many civilians losing their lives and much property destroyed,” said Mbeki.

Mbeki’s comments, published in the Times newspaper in Johannesburg, were in defiance of international opinion which at the time demanded that Gbagbo stand down as they believed he had lost to Ouattara in a November 28 election.

Regional efforts
Mbeki’s report after his AU-backed mission to the West African country was the first of several regional efforts to end the ongoing crisis, which has seen violence kill about 250 people so far.

Nigeria’s foreign minister on Monday called on the UN Security Council to authorise force in Côte d’Ivoire to remove Gbagbo.

Mbeki said in the report that there appeared little sign the two would-be presidents would talk.

“He [Ouattara] responded very negatively to our suggestion that he should meet Gbagbo to negotiate a resolution of the crisis, stating very firmly and unequivocally that he would not meet Gbagbo, as the Ivorian electorate has voted him out of power,” said Mbeki in the report cited by the Times.

Gbagbo was equally adamant that he was the legitimate president and he would not step aside, the newspaper said.—AFP

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