Secretary General Ban Calls for Compliance with Arms Embargo as Attack Helicopters Delivered to Cote d’Ivoire

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–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 Belarus has provided attack helicopters to forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo.

“The Secretary-General has learned with deep concern that three attack helicopters and related materiel from Belarus are reportedly being delivered at Yamoussoukro for Mr. Gbagbo’s forces,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued overnight, noting that the matter had been brought to the attention of the relevant Security Council committee.

It added that 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.”

In the statement, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the first delivery reportedly arrived on a flight which landed on Sunday night and additional flights are scheduled for Monday, describing these as “a serious violation of the embargo against Côte d’Ivoire which has been in place since 2004.”

According to media reports on Monday, a spokesperson for Belarus’ foreign ministry has denied delivering attack helicopters to Côte d’Ivoire.

The West African country 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. In the latest reports of violence, three peacekeepers serving with the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) were wounded in an ambush in a suburb of the country’s commercial capital, Abidjan, on Sunday.

In the statement, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the violation of the arms embargo has been brought to the attention of the Security Council’s Committee charged with the responsibility for sanctions against Côte d’Ivoire – and that the Secretary-General hopes that the Security Council will consider convening urgently a meeting to discuss this issue.

The spokesperson added that 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.