From: UN New York, June 04 2003 03:00PM
© UN News Centre at

As Liberians gathered in Ghana today for the start of peace talks, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a strong message to the meeting that the first step forward, for all parties, is agreement on a binding ceasefire to end the violence.

In a message delivered to the Liberian Peace Conference in Accra by Abou Moussa, his Representative in Liberia, the Secretary-General stressed that a ceasefire would not only alleviate the suffering of the people but would create a favourable environment for negotiating a solution to the country’s multiple challenges. “Indeed,” he said, “the events of recent years have demonstrated the high cost and utter futility of the military option.”

The Secretary-General stressed that lasting peace could not be imposed from the outside and that “Liberian leaders must demonstrate a genuine and concrete readiness to restore peace and stability to their country. It is they who must uphold this responsibility, make the compromises and difficult choices needed for peace, and respond to the overwhelming pleas of the Liberian people for peace. I hope they will take full advantage of the window of opportunity offered by this gathering.”

The Presidents of Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Liberia also addressed the gathering, which was sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Presidents Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone were also present. The gathering also included ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the International Contact Group on Liberia, and representatives of Liberian political parties, civil society organizations and the rebel movement Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Outlining the costs of the Liberian conflict to the nation and the sub-region, the ECOWAS Chairman, President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana, said, “It is imperative that the conflict must be stopped and peace restored.” Noting that “no one can bring peace to Liberia but the Liberian people themselves,” he appealed to Liberian President Charles Taylor and leaders of the various parties “to look resolutely ahead into the future…[and] override their individual and selfish desires and ambitions.”

In his address, President Taylor offered to “remove himself from the process that would continue to perpetuate this crisis…[as] it has become apparent that some people believe that President Taylor is the problem.” It is important for a process to be put into place, he said, that would permit a smooth transition from war to peace.

The talks will shift tomorrow to Akosombo, a town approximately 100 kilometres from Accra, and are expected to last for at least two weeks.

added by: Robert W. Kranz  June-2003