Reacting to reports of the arrest of defeated Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo Monday afternoon, EP President Jerzy Buzek said the crisis could have been avoided if Mr Gbagbo had accepted the democratic will of the people. He called on incoming President Alassane Ouattara to foster national reconciliation but to ensure that crimes against civilians are punished. The Foreign Affairs Committee will discuss Ivory Coast, including the humanitarian crisis in Abidjan, on Tuesday morning.
"I regret that the full transfer of power to Alassane Ouattara could only be achieved at the price of human lives and of a grave humanitarian crisis…The people of Ivory Coast are, finally, closer to achieving what was ultimately the aim of the November elections: an end to the military and political crisis that has gripped Côte d’Ivoire since 2002", Buzek said in a statement.
During last week's plenary, MEPs condemned the violence in Ivory Coast, welcomed the international intervention of French and UN troops, who are trying to protect civilians, and called for swift justice against those who had committed crimes against the civilian population.
On Thursday when MEPs adopted their resolution, it seemed that Mr Gbagbo was isolated in his residence in Abidjan and had no other choice than to hand over power. For the Council, Hungary's Zsolt Németh said, "Ouattara has won the war, he should now win the peace". Fighting continued over the weekend.
During the debate, MEPs were united in condemning the situation. Cristian Dan Preda, who led the EU election observation mission to Ivory Coast, said, "We are here because Laurent Gbagbo has steadfastly refused to recognise the results of the election."
On the verge of a civil war?
There are allegations of massive human rights violations with hundreds of bodies being discovered in the city of Duékoué, but it isn't clear who is responsible. Marie-Christine Vergiat a French member of the GUE group said, "atrocities were likely committed by both sides" while Dutch Socialist Thjs Berman added, "Good to see that President Ouattara has called for an investigation in the killings in Duékoué".
"We must not forget the current situation, hundreds of deaths within four months and a million displaced refugees," Mr Preda said.
In Abidjan there are many injured and citizens are running short of drinking water and food.
MEPs emphasised the need for national reconciliation. "We must not abandon this country," said Mr Berman.
28 November: 2nd round of presidential elections
2 December: independent electoral commission proclaims victory of Ouattara
3 December: Constitutional court cancels the results in some voting areas, proclaims Gbagbo victor
9 December: African Union calls on Gbagbo to resign. International community recognises Ouattara as president
end March: pro-Ouattara troops take control of whole country (aside from Abidjan) in a lightning attack
11 April: Gbagbo arrested in Abidjan