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By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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BANJUL, Gambia, April 30, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Foreign Ministers of the seven-nation ECOWAS Contact Group on Guinea Bissau are meeting with the country's political stakeholders on Sunday, 29th April 2012 in Banjul, The Gambia, to discuss the next steps towards the resolution of the crisis in the country. This is in line with the decisions of the extra-ordinary summit of regional leaders held in Abidjan on 26th April 2012.

The summit set up the contact group and urged the stakeholders to join regional mediation efforts for a "consensual transition through the holding of elections within 12 months taking note of the 16th April 2012 commitment by the (Bissau) military command to accept the restoration of conditional order based on modalities to be worked out with the help of ECOWAS."

The objective is to end the political crisis in Guinea Bissau sparked by the 12th April 2012 military take-over which has disrupted ongoing electoral process to elect a replacement for President Bacai Sanha who died in January 2012.

The first round of presidential election held 18th March 2012 was inconclusive with the run-off scheduled for 29th April 2012, which some opposition parties had threatened to boycott alleging fraud in the first round, before the military coup.

Some 30 representatives of Guinea Bissau's political stakeholders, including the military junta and political parties, will participate in the Banjul meeting convened by the Government of The Gambia on behalf of the contact group, which comprises Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

The group, chaired by Nigeria, is charged with coordinating follow-up actions regarding the implementation of the decisions of the 26th April extra-ordinary summit in Abidjan.

Among other decisions, the summit also reaffirmed the regional leaders' rejection of the coup, condemned the disruption of the political process and the establishment of a transition by the junta contrary to a written commitment to immediately restore constitutional rule.

It also threatened to impose targeted sanctions against members of the military command as well as diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions against the country should the military command fail to accede to the decisions within 72 hours.

The meeting of foreign ministers of the contact group will be followed by that of the Heads of State and Government on 3rd May 2012.