NEW YORK, 27 MARCH 1997
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ANTÓNIO MONTEIRO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL 3757th MEETING (Agenda on the situation in Liberia)
The representative of the presidency of the European Union has just expressed our common vision of the Liberian peace process and our support for the draft resolution before the Security Council. Portugal notes with deep satisfaction the recent progress made towards the consolidation of peace and national reconciliation in Liberia. We particulary welcome the significant progress in the political and military situation, as described in the report of the Secretary-General dated 19 March 1997.
We hope that the present extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and the Mission's new and important role in the electoral process will constitute positive contributions towards the holding of free and fair elections in that country.
My delegation strongly believes that the maintenance and strengthening of UNOMIL's presence are essential to this phase of the peace process, as underlined in the report of the Secretary-General. In this context, enhanced cooperation between UNOMIL and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) will be an essential element in the success of the peace process.
Let me also welcome the agreement between the Council of State and the Economic Community of West African States on a basic framework for the holding of elections in Liberia. We call on both the Liberian Council of State and ECOWAS member States to work jointly, with renewed energy, towards the full implementation of that agreement.
The peace process is now entering a new and crucial phase. Timely conclusion of this phase is essential both to the credibility of the peace process and to the viability of the coming elections. We support the efforts of ECOWAS, and we very much hope that all the parties will abide by the timetable established in the Abuja Agreement. I also underline the importance we attach to the establishment of electoral law and regulations by the end of this March, to the registration of voters in April and to the election campaign in May.
Like other delegations, we very much favour the strengthening of ECOMOG, and we also would like to pay tribute to the very important role of ECOMOG's Force Commander in the area of the demobilization of the ex-combatants of all Liberian factions.
Organizing elections is not an easy task, especially in countries which have experienced civil war. Several requirements must be met in order to organize free, fair and internationally verifiable elections in Liberia. I would just like to mention several items deserving of careful consideration at this essential stage of the preparations: the urgent installation of the independent Electoral Commission and the reconstituted Supreme Court; the registration of voters; and the return of refugees and I would like to stress that this is indispensable for the credibility of the entire electoral process. The possibility of non-participation by almost 30 per cent of the Liberian population in the elections should be a matter of great concern for the international community.
As we have stated on other occasions, we strongly believe that the primary responsibility for peace and national reconciliation in Liberia rests with all Liberian parties. We urge all Liberians to cooperate fully with the peace process, in order to consolidate national reconciliation and to move the disarmament process forward. We also urge all Liberian leaders to create conditions of security for everybody. Their commitment to respect human rights in the country and their facilitation of humanitarian activities are of particular importance.
The United Nations and regional organizations must continue to play an important role in Liberia. However, the role of those organizations cannot be confined to the strict implementation of the military and political aspects of the peace agreement. They should help and promote all efforts to alleviate the present difficulties that the Liberian people are facing.
In conclusion, I would like to echo the appeal to the international community to support actively not only the economic and social reconstruction of Liberia but also Liberian institutions directly involved in the preservation of law and order.
The draft resolution before us is a step in the right direction.