By United Nations
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29 January - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today outlined the principles he said should guide efforts to resolve the political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, including the demand that outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo step down to allow the formation of a national unity government by president-elect, Alassane Ouattara.

Speaking at African Union's (AU) high-level meeting on Côte d'Ivoire at the organisation's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mr Ban said that reopening the results of November's president election “would be a grave injustice and set an unfortunate precedent.”

“Our first duty is to the people of Côte d'Ivoire. We have an obligation to remain firm and unified, and to signal to Africa's peoples that our commitment to our principles is real,” said the Secretary-General.

“We must preserve our unified position, act together, and stand firm against Mr. Gbagbo's attempt to hang on to power through the use of force,” he added.

Mr. Ban called for concrete action to remove the siege on the Golf Hotel and other obstructions to the work of the United Nations in Côte d'Ivoire. Mr. Ouattara and his entourage have set up base in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where they are protected by the UN peacekeepers.

The Secretary-General a legitimate government, when established in Côte d'Ivoire, must have the full support of the international community to effectively address social and economic challenges, promote reconciliation, and uphold human rights and justice.

He said the AU's proposed High-Level Panel on Côte d'Ivoire should work in close coordination with the UN in all aspects and in every stage of the process. “In this regard, the UN is prepared to provide a senior official to work with the team of experts that will support the Panel,” he said.

Mr. Ban voiced deep concern over hostile actions ordered by Mr. Gbagbo against UN peacekeepers.

He stressed that the UN peacekeeping force known by its French acronym as UNOCI, has a clear mandate from earlier peace agreements which were signed by then president Gbagbo himself and other Ivorian leaders to protect Mr. Ouattara and the Prime Minister.

“Regrettably, since 16 December, regular and irregular forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have obstructed movement of our peacekeepers, cut their fuel and other vital life support supplies, used live fire against them and blockaded the Golf Hotel.

“I am also deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation,” Mr. Ban said, noting that more 260 people have been killed in violent incidents since mid-December.

More than 30,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring countries which could result in regional instability, and more than 17,000 have been displaced internally, with more people on the move, the Secretary-General said.

Mass graves have also been reported, and UN human rights staff have been denied access to the sites.

“All those responsible for grave acts against the Ivorian people and UN peacekeepers must be brought to justice and held responsible for their crimes,” said the Secretary-General.

Earlier today in Addis Ababa, Mr. Ban met with a delegation of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) and underlined his deep concern over the continuing post-election crisis in Côte d'Ivoire and the deadlock's impact on security and development prospects for the country.

At the meeting with the delegation, which comprised Henry Ajumogobia, the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, and James Victor Gbeho, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Ban commended the West African bloc for its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the political uncertainty in Côte d'Ivoire and thanked the organization for its leadership on the issue.

“The Secretary-General stressed the importance for the United Nations, ECOWAS and the African Union to preserve their principled and unified position,” said a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General.

Mr. Ban also welcomed the decision by the African Union Peace and Security Council to reaffirm previous decisions of ECOWAS and the African Union and reiterate its support for the work of the UN.

Côte d'Ivoire has been in turmoil since early December when Mr. Gbagbo refused leave office despite Mr. Ouattara's UN-certified victory in November's run-off election.