My delegation would like to extend to Your Excellency sincere congratulations on your deserved assumption of the presidency of the Security Council for the month of January.
We would also like to extend our congratulations to your predecessor for the excellent manner in which he guide the work of the Security Council during the month of December.
As I take the floor in this august body for the first time this year, I would like to welcome the new members of the Council and assure them of my delegation's readiness to cooperate with them in the next two years.
Let me also seize this opportunity to congratulate the outgoing members for their excellent contribution to the work of the Council during their mandate.
The Report of the Secretary-General and the Statement just made by the Permanent Representative of Angola give us reason for cautious optimism in relation to the peace process in that sister country.
The approval by the Joint Commission of a timetable committing the Government of Angola and UNITA to the completion of the remaining tasks in the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol may represent a turning point towards the conclusion of the process under the "Acordos de Paz".
It is encouraging to note that the will of the Angolan People, of the peoples of region and that of the international community is prevailing, and that UNITA is now persuaded to join in the efforts aiming at bringing about peace and stability in Angola.
We should also recognize the fact that the progress in the Angolan peace process is to a large extent due to the decise and constructive role played by this august body to bring the process to the right track.
The Security Council has not only remained seized of the situation in Angola but it has taken decisive steps to prevent the derailment of the process.
We are equally encouraged by the information contained in the Secretary-General's Report according to which tensions have decreased between the parties throughout the country, and that registration and disarmament of residual military personnel has been formally concluded and demobilization is in progress.
Our optimism is, however, cautions because the experience of the recent past has not been very reassuring, and we are still concerned over the information that UNITA is still regrouping some of its military personnel. We do not understand the motive behind such actions which may undermine the confidence being built between the parties.
We would also like to see an accelerated normalization of State administration in UNITA controlled areas, and the transformation of Radio Vorgan into a non-partisan broadcasting completed.
In this regard, we urge the Government of Angola and in particular UNITA to complete, in accordance with the new calendar they have agreed upon, the implementation of the remaining tasks of the Lusaka Protocol by the end of February 1998.
The challenges ahead are mammoth but not insurmountable. The international community should continue to persevere in its efforts to provide the necessary support to the peace process.
Some of the challenges facing the Angolan people today will go beyond the conclusion of the peace process as such. These include reconciliation which entails not just reconciling leaders of the parties but also and perhaps most importantly reconciling families, communities and the entire people of Angola.
The reintegration of the demobilized soldiers is of paramount importance so as to make sure that the return to war is not the alternative for their living. Demining is an area of equal importance for it will allow for the resettlement of people in their areas and for them to produce.
The Angolan people are anxious to devote their energy and efforts to these challenges of national reconciliation, reconstruction, democracy and economic development. The country is endowed with rich natural resources which will allow the Angolan people to develop and prosper. We trust, therefore, that the international community will continue to lend its indispensable assistance.
It is within this context that my delegation supports the recommendation contained in the Report of the Secretary-General proposing the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) thus enchancing confidence building and helping create a conducive environment to long term stability, democracy, reconstruction and development.
In conclusion, we wish to renew our appreciation to the Serectary-General for his continued commitment to the Angolan peace process, and to his Special Representative for this positive contribuition.
Our appreciation is extended to the members of the troika for their positive role in the Angolan peace process.