NEW YORK — The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to extend the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Ivory Coast for another year, while expressing its concern about the country’s security situation.
The Security Council, in its resolution extending the peacekeepers' mandate in Ivory Coast, said it welcomes what it calls the overall progress toward restoring security, peace and stability in Ivory Coast, notably in its largest city, Abidjan.
At the same time, the Council expresses its concern about continued reports of human rights abuses and what it describes as the continuing precarious security situation, particularly in western Ivory Coast and along the borders, especially with Liberia.
The resolution repeats the Council’s earlier determination that protection of civilians is the priority for the U.N. peacekeepers. It also endorses the recommendation of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the peacekeeping force, known as UNOCI, should be reduced by the equivalent of one battalion, about 800 of the current 9,400 troops.
Ivory Coast’s representative, Youssoufou Bamba, said the Security Council’s resolution is quite balanced, although he took exception to the withdrawal of one battalion of peacekeepers.
”We salute the determination of the Council to put the protection of civilian populations at the very heart of UNOCI’s mandate. But it is deplorable that the Council did not follow our wish to maintain the initial size of the contingents of UNOCI, which are now reduced by a battalion,” Bamba said.
Bamba said he is confident that the U.N. troop reduction in Ivory Coast will not create a security vacuum. He also expressed total satisfaction with the Council’s decision to transfer three armed helicopters from the U.N. mission in Liberia to the peacekeepers in Ivory Coast.
The U.N. operation in Ivory Coast was established in 2004 to supervise an agreement aimed at ending a civil war in that country. In 2010 the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave his post after losing the election to rival Alassane Ouattrra. The U.N. troops helped force Gbagbo's surrender and arrest, and have remained in Ivory Coast to support the government.