According to a UN spokesperson in New York, the Secretary-General leaves for Paris tonight, ahead of a weekend summit of heads of state to deal with the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. On Saturday, he will attend the summit and speak at a meeting of Côte d'Ivoire's political forces, as well as at another meeting on the follow-up mechanism to the Paris Conference.
On Sunday, as the summit continues, Mr. Annan is scheduled to participate in a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac and South African President Thabo Mbeki, before heading back to New York later in the day.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Abidjan, Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy for the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, met yesterday with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and voiced her concern over the humanitarian situation in the country.
She expressed concern about the lack of public services - particularly those dealing with health and education - in rebel-held areas, and underlined the need to protect civilians caught in armed conflict, including nearly one million Ivoirians who have been displaced from their homes since last September. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), medicines, medical equipment and the retention of medical staff in and around the war zones remain in a critical state despite the efforts of medical organizations.
Ms. McAskie asked President Gbagbo to ensure that his declaration, made last 8 October, that no more shantytowns would be destroyed would be respected, and she also asked the President to ensure respect for the safety of humanitarian personnel bringing aid to vulnerable people in the country.