Zuma to join Ivory Coast crisis team

2011-02-16 19:01

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma will join five African heads of state to help resolve the crisis in the Ivory Coast this weekend, the international relations and co-operation department said on Wednesday.

The west African country was plunged into a political crisis when long-time president Laurant Gbagbo refused to step down after his rival Alassane Ouattara was pronounced the winner of the country's November 2010 polls.

Zuma will travel to Mauritania on February 20 and the Ivory Coast on February 21 in his capacity as a member of the high level panel appointed to find a resolution to the crisis.

The panel - representing the five regions of the continent - includes the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa and Tanzania.

It met on January 21, chaired by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to determine its "programme of work".

"The team of experts appointed by the panel will submit its findings to the members of the high level panel at a preparatory meeting to be held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on 20 February 2011. The panel will thereafter travel to Cote 'd Ivoire to meet the parties and submit proposals for a resolution.

"In accordance with the mandate from the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), the panel is expected to conclude its work before the end of February and its conclusions, which must be endorsed by council, will be binding on all the Ivorian parties with whom these conclusions would have been negotiated," the department said.

The panel also includes the chair of the African Union commission and the president of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). It would work alongside the current Ecowas and the current AU head.

Zuma, who will be joined by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, returns to South Africa on February 22.

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