Press Comments made by South African President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire Guillaume Soro, Cape Town, 20 June 2007

President Thabo Mbeki
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the press.

I was very glad indeed that the Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire Guillaume Soro was able to come to South Africa for discussions with me. I was very keen to see him. I have not seen him for some time. We met at the inauguration of the new President of Nigeria. And indeed, he expressed the same interest as I did that we should meet. I am therefore very glad that he has been able to come to South Africa.

Principally, he has briefed me on where we are regarding the transitional process in Côte d'Ivoire. The Prime Minister has indeed briefed me on these matters. I am very pleased with the progress that is being made. It is very good progress. I want to reassure the Prime Minister of our continued interest in this process in Côte d'Ivoire and our commitment to supporting the Prime Minister and the processes in the country. As we have been saying in the past, the resolution of this matter is very important to the people of Côte d'Ivoire, the region of West Africa and indeed, the whole of Africa.

I must again congratulate you Prime Minister. Good work has been done. We are displaying a faster pace on progress in the implementation of the peace process.

Thank you.

Prime Minister Soro
I came here to greet President Mbeki, to greet him as an elder. As you know, he has long been involved in the process to find peace in Côte d'Ivoire. I also came to brief him on developments in the peace process. President Mbeki has always been involved and followed up on developments in the process.

I also came to invite him to the ceremony of the Flame of Peace in Bouake. We have agreed he will come although we have to finalise the details around the date.

I also came to thank him for his support of our peace process.

Thank you

Questions and answers
Question Prime Minister Soro, can you please update us on the election timetable? What progress has been made regarding the citizens who were said to not have the proper identification documents?
Answer We have begun the identification process. The first step has been to deploy magistrates in order to issue these new birth certificates and cards to all citizens. This has started.

I have also deployed new prefects in all the territories of the country. This process began on the 18th June.

The whole process of identification will begin in earnest before the end of June.

Question Prime Minister Soro, could you kindly provide an update of the disarmament process?
Answer As you know, the disarmament process in Côte d'Ivoire has begun by regrouping the forces in Côte d'Ivoire and this is precisely why I have come to invite President Mbeki to the ceremony of the Flames of Peace because it is here that we will begin burning a number of weapons and from this ceremony, the actual disarmament will begin in all Ivorian territories.

Question Prime Minister Soro, can you give us a sense of how the visit by the UN Security Council delegation went? Is there agreement between the government of Côte d'Ivoire (yourself and the President) and the Security Council with regard to the continued role of the UN Higher Representative for elections and whether the election process should indeed be overseen by the United Nations?
Answer I will speak of the guidance given by President Mbeki in Pretoria in this regard since this matter has been discussed in Pretoria already.

Indeed, I received a delegation of the UN Security Council in Abidjan yesterday. Everybody, ie every Ivorian including myself and President Gbagbo, is in agreement that it is necessary for the United Nations to oversee the electoral process and indeed to validate these processes.

So the problem that remains is whether the Higher Representative - the post of which was created here in Pretoria - is to remain or whether his mission would be transferred to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.

As far as this question is concerned, I believe the UN Security Council is going to discuss the matter and take a decision shortly after consultation with the Mediator, President Compoare.

Question Prime Minister Soro, can you please provide a schedule for the elections in Côte d'Ivoire?
Answer (Prime Minister Soro) Elections will be held when all Ivorians are ready to participate in elections. The main challenge at the moment remains to ensure peace and security in Côte d'Ivoire. We would want the elections to be a success. We also have to solve the problem of the army and reunification.

The Mediator, President Compoare was in Yamoussoukro two weeks ago and we discussed the electoral processes.

But actually, it is not for me as the Prime Minister to decide on date for elections to be held. There is an independent Electoral Commission and it is this Commission that will decide upon a date for elections in Côte d'Ivoire.

(President Mbeki) Off course, with regard to this matter, you must understand the logic of the process. This matter of identification and registration is important both for its own sake but also for the purpose of preparing the voters roll so that we do not have Ivorians who are excluded from voting. So until you have completed that process, it is difficult to set a date for elections.

You also then have the DDR process, the reunification of the country, and all other processes of which the Prime Minister spoke regarding disarmament that must be completed. This process is beginning in earnest shortly.

All of these processes must be completed to ensure a climate that is conducive to the holding of elections.

I would imagine that the Electoral Commission in Côte d'Ivoire will be considering these matters before it can make an announcement of a date for elections.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

20 June 2007



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