The thirty-first ordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) opens today in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou. About 10 ECOWAS heads of state are expected to attend the one-day meeting.  Among other issues, the leaders will discuss the security situation in the sub-region, particularly the stalemate in the implementation of the Ivory Coast peace process.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas is the executive secretary of ECOWAS.  He said the crisis in Ivory Coast will take center stage at the summit.

?I am certain that the heads of state will devote a lot of time to see how they can help to push the peace process forward.  In the last day or two, there has been some very encouraging signals so that in spite of the stalemate which we have seen, there seems to be some movement now. Yesterday, that is Thursday, the president held a meeting of his government. In attendance, of course, were the Prime Minister and all the other ministers.  This is a very good and positive development,? he said.

One reason for the stalemate in the peace process has to do with the way that some parties to the Ivorian dispute are refusing to accept UN Security Council Resolution 1721, which outlines the transitional period leading up to elections. Chambas says ECOWAS supports Resolution 1721.

?ECOWAS as you know triggered the entire process, which led to the adoption of 1721, and we believe that it?s a good framework. It presents us with a roadmap, which if it is faithfully implemented will lead to citizen identification, disarmament, and the holding of credible elections at the end of the transition period.  For it to succeed, we believe that the dialogue that President Gbagbo is proposing with Mr. Guillaume Soro (rebel leader) would be very, very useful. It will add impetus to the peace process, and hopefully at the end of the transition period, we can have credible elections in Cote d?Ivoire,? Chambas said.

He said President Gbagbo?s new dialogue with the rebels does not conflict with the authority of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

?Prime Minister Banny has specific tasks that have been assigned to him under Resolution 1721. But for him to be effective and able to carry all this out, he needs the cooperation of all the Ivorian political forces, including of course the New Forces rebels. So I think the dialogue that the President proposes, I see that dialogue as a confident building measure,? he said.

ECOWAS and the African Union are supposed to report to the Security Council on February 1 on the implementation of Resolution 1721. Chambas said ECOWAS should be ready for that report.

?Certainly! I propose to present to the summit today a draft report and get the comments of heads of state, and then at the end of the summit, ECOWAS will be ready to make its report with a review of the situation to the Secretary General of the UN for presentation to the Security Council,? he said.

Chambas said ECOWAS is pleased with reconstruction efforts in post-conflict countries such as Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Togo.  On Liberia, he said ECOWAS is preparing for the donor conference to be held in Washington in February and would urge the donor community to respond positively to Liberia?s post-conflict reconstruction program that will be presented.