Don't let Ivory Coast backslide, U.N. says

Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Economic and political success in Ivory Coast is critical for a region steeped in destabilizing conflict, the U.N. special envoy to the country said.

Bert Koenders, U.N. special envoy for Ivory Coast, told members of the Security Council that 2013 was "a critical year" for the country.

"In the context of a volatile regional security situation, the stability and economic success of Ivory Coast is more than ever important to the stability of West Africa," he said in a statement.

Ivory Coast hosts a Saturday summit for the Economic Community of West African States to assess the security situation in Mali, the country's northern neighbor. Militants linked to al-Qaida stormed a natural gas plant in Algeria and the U.S. government issued a travel warning for Niger, both to Mali's north.

Ivory Coast, for its part, was on the brink of civil war in 2011 following contested presidential elections. Former President Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes allegedly committed during the conflict.

Koenders said gains made since then in Ivory Coast were impressive. The Security Council, however, was called on to "consolidate the significant gains achieved and address remaining challenges and root causes of the repeated crises which have engulfed the country on so many occasions over the past decades."

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