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West African leaders back Liberian peace process

Security Council, West African leaders pledge full backing for Liberian peace process

The United Nations Security Council today reaffirmed its readiness to establish a follow-on UN stabilization force to support Liberia's welcome political transition, and joined West African leaders in a pledge to ensure the full implementation of a recent peace accord signed by the parties.

Following a ministerial-level open briefing by senior officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Security Council welcomed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached on 18 August by Liberia's Government, rebel groups, political parties and civil society leaders, and urged the parties to fully respect the ceasefire and to fully implement all of their commitments under that accord.

In a statement read by the Council's President, Deputy Permanent Representative Fayssal Mekdad of Syria, the 15-nation body highlighted the establishment of a Joint Monitoring Committee - one of the main objectives under the Accra Agreement - as "a critical aspect of the peace process." The statement reaffirmed the Council's readiness to launch a follow-on stabilization force to support Liberia's transitional government and guide implementation of the peace agreement.

Expressing its ongoing concern over the situation, particularly the continuing dire humanitarian situation of much of the Liberian population, the Council also called on all parties to allow full, secure and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies and personnel.

The Council stressed the need to create a secure environment, which enabled respect for human rights, including the well-being and rehabilitation of children, especially child combatants, protected the well-being of civilians, and supported the humanitarian workers.

Before reading the statement, Mr. Mekdad praised the high-level participation of the West African leadership and said today's meeting was an "an exceptional and extraordinary event" in the lives of the Liberian people, who deserved the utmost attention to help bring their years of suffering to an end.

The briefing was led by Nana Akufo Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana and current ECOWAS Chairman, and Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS. Those officials were joined by Bamba Mamadou, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cote d'Ivoire, Francois Fall, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, Oluyemi Adeniji Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, and Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations, Papa Louis Fall.

Mr. Akufu Addo said ECOWAS was determined to ensure stability, not only in Liberia itself, but also in the whole Mano River Union, and that the signing of the Peace Agreement was a significant step. A successful ceasefire was critical for the deployment of the international stabilization force, return of humanitarian agencies and refugees.

Consequently, he said, every effort should be made to assist ECOWAS's vanguard force in Liberia until the international stabilization force was deployed. A follow-up resolution of the Council should give effect to the 1 October deadline for the start-up of the UN operation.

For his part, Mr. Chambas stressed the issues requiring special attention now that the peace agreement was in place and the hostilities had cooled. He said there was the urgent need to curb the small arms proliferation in West Africa, including through the establishment of a formal register of arms brokers.

A related issue was the ongoing presence and activities of armed groups thought the region. Such groups were a constant threat to peace, particularly in Sierra Leone, and there must be a conscious and deliberate effort directed at their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. He also appealed to the Council to lift all of the sanctions against Liberia, except the arms embargo.

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