Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (PANA) - Ahead of the start of the 30-day Ramadan due to start 20 July, the six-nation ECOWAS Contact Group on Mali has appealed to all stakeholders in the country's crisis for the total cessation of hostilities before the holy month.
The appeal was contained in the communique issued after a one-day meeting of the leaders of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, Liberia and host Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on Saturday
The leaders said armed groups occupying the North of the country should also immediately halt the destruction of historical monuments in Timbuktu, and requested the international community to set up a special fund for the restoration and preservation of the monuments which are classified as world heritage sites.
The meeting was part of efforts by the regional bloc ECOWAS to move forward regional initiatives towards resolving the political crisis in Mali, following the 22 March 2012 military coup that toppled the government of elected President Ahmadou Toumani Toure and the separatist rebellion in the north of the country.
ECOWAS has continued to pursue a two-track approach to resolving the crisis, with an ongoing mediation effort led by President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and a military approach that could see over 3,000 troops deployed to Mali.
The Contact Group leaders encouraged the Government of Mali to put in place a national body responsible for peace talks with the armed groups in northern Mali under the aegis of the ECOWAS Mediator, with a view to seeking a negotiated political solution to the crisis though dialogue.
Simultaneously, the leaders urged the interim President of Mali to file without delay, a formal request to ECOWAS and the United Nations, for the deployment of ECOWAS troops to support the Malian Army in its core duty of defending the territorial integrity of Mali.
Last week, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that gave a strong support for ECOWAS efforts in Mali, but stopped short of endorsing the deployment of troops to the country, as requested by the regional body.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Chairman, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire, has reaffirmed the region’s uncompromising resolve to return Mali to constitutional rule and to maintain its territorial integrity.
“We cannot accept the division of Mali nor can we accept terrorist destructions, drug trafficking or extremism,” the ECOWAS Chairman told the Contact Group meeting, adding that mechanisms should be put in place for the creation of a Government of national unity.
Also speaking, President Compaore described the meeting as a further manifestation of the determination by ECOWAS and partners to find a lasting solution to the Malian crisis by involving all stakeholders.
-0- PANA SEG 9July2012