With United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan in Paris ahead of high-level talks this weekend on the situation
in Côte d'Ivoire, his top envoy met with officials from West African nations
to discuss the economic and humanitarian effects the crisis is having on
The Secretary-General met first with Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, his Special Representative for West Africa. Afterwards, he travelled to Elysee for talks with French President Jacques Chirac, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. They reviewed the progress made so far on the Côte d'Ivoire talks already taking place under the auspices of the French Government and then turned to plans for the summit meeting tomorrow and Sunday.
Meanwhile on the ground, Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy dealing with Cote d'Ivoire, met yesterday with representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss the economic and humanitarian effects the crisis on the region. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 140,000 nationals of those countries have been forced to flee the Côte d'Ivoire, and many are losing their jobs as the Ivoirian economy falters.
"It is clear that the crisis is affecting the entire region of the Communaute Financiere Africaine, especially economies in neighbouring countries," Ms. McAskie said, referring to the blow the ongoing unrest has dealt to Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. "Not only have trade routes been cut, but also the money being sent home from nationals working here has seen a drastic reduction." She stressed that even if a political agreement is reached in the short run, "the humanitarian crisis will require long-term attention."
Ms. McAskie also met yesterday with humanitarian donors in Abidjan to underscore the importance of the situation, saying, "With war looming in Iraq, the world may lose sight of the fact that this conflict could destabilize the whole of West Africa." She also met with first lady Simone Gbagbo to discuss the social pressure the crisis has placed on internally displaced persons and the families hosting them.