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Ban calls for compliance with arms embargo in Côte d'Ivoire

28 February 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for full compliance with the arms embargo placed on Côte d'Ivoire, in the wake of reports that attack helicopters have been provided to forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo.

“The Secretary-General demands full compliance with the arms embargo and warns both the supplier of this military equipment and Mr. Gbagbo that appropriate action will be taken in response to the violation,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued overnight, which said that the reported delivery of the helicopters and other material could be “a serious violation” of the arms embargo, mandated by the Security Council, which has been in place since 2004.

Côte d'Ivoire has been caught in a political deadlock with growing reports of tension and violence – between rival groups as well as on UN peacekeepers – since Mr. Gbagbo refused to leave office after he was defeated by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in a presidential election held last November.

The spokesperson’s statement added that the violation of the embargo has been brought to the attention of the Security Council committee charged with the responsibility for sanctions against Côte d'Ivoire.

Speaking to the press today, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson stated that the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African country – the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) – reported that a flight carrying some of the helicopter parts landed at the capital, Yamoussoukro. A team made up of members of the group of experts and an UNOCI officer travelled to the city’s airport but was unable to verify the information and was forced to withdraw when they were fired upon by armed elements.

On Monday, some media reports identified Belarus as the source of the helicopters and equipment. In a statement posted on the website of the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in New York, the spokesperson from Belarus’ foreign ministry denied the reports, noting that “the Republic of Belarus has always regarded UN Security Council’s decisions very responsibly.”

In the statement issued overnight, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the Secretary-General has asked UNOCI to monitor the situation closely and to take all necessary action, within its mandate, to ensure that the delivered equipment is not prepared for use.

Last week, the Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Last year’s election was meant to be the culmination of efforts to reunify the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

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