Address by A.V. Saltanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the International Conference for Reconstruction of Liberia 6 February, 2004
Dear Participants in the Conference,
The present Conference corroborates the significance the United Nations and the entire international community attach to peaceful settlement of conflicts in Africa and to elimination of their consequences. This is, evidently, true of the situation in Liberia.
The positive changes in the situation, the establishment of transitional state structures hold out hope for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. This is the only possible way for Liberia's progressive return to peaceful life and promotion of its social and economic advance.
The United Nations and its Security Council should carry on effective coordination of international efforts in Liberia first of all through the Peacekeeping Mission authorized by Security Council resolution 1509. The international community should continue its support to the Liberian National Transitional Government in promoting the peace process and addressing the related complex issues of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, creation of integrated armed forces and police, restoration of state structures throughout the country, and holding of general elections not later than the end of the year 2005.
At the same time, we should not forget that the prime responsibility for the country's destiny rests on Liberians themselves.
We deem it important to ensure effective cooperation in the Liberian affairs among the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS as well as within the Mano River Union. Contacts among leaders of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire to strengthen mutual confidence among those states should be maintained.
The solution of trans-border issues, including illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, movement of armed groups across borders, migration of refugees, recruitment of child combatants, is crucial for the stabilization of the situation in Liberia and in the region as a whole. This is an important area for the states of the West African subregion and the United Nations to work in. We support the establishment of close coordination among the UN peace-keeping missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire in order to resolve the said problems in particular through the UN Regional Office in West Africa.
Russia renders support to the United Nations peace-keeping efforts in Liberia in fact, not in word. Last November, President Putin signed an order envisaging the provision of up to 40 Russian military observers for the UN Mission in that country. This is the practical realization of the course - confirmed by the Russian President at the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly - to expand Russia's involvement in peace keeping under the United Nations auspices. We go on working on further increase of Russia's practical contribution to the UN peace-keeping operations in Africa.
The UN Security Council and the entire international community should further pay attention to effective enforcement of the sanctions regime against Liberia. Considering sanctions' impact on the country's economy they should be consistently adapted to the changing situation. The Security Council should consider their lifting as soon as the threat on the part of persons and groups whose activities jeopardize peace and security in Liberia has been eliminated.
Russia maintains its participation in the efforts to create favorable conditions for sustainable development of the African Continent including in the context of the G8 Africa Action Plan.
An important area of Russia's assistance to Africa lies in reducing the debt burden of the region's states within the Heavily Indebted Poorest Countries Initiative. We decided to make an additional contribution of 10 million US dollars to the Initiative's Trust Fund in 2003-2004. In 1998-2002, Russia wrote off African debts in the amount of 11.2 billion US dollars. In this connection we share the wish expressed by the Chairman of the National transitional government Mr. C.G.Bryant to consider in the nearest future within the frameworks of Paris Club the issue of external debt of Liberia in order to diminish it.
We offer extensive trade preferences to the states of the continent. Traditional export goods from the least developed countries including Liberia are not subject to import customs duties. This regime is applied to 80 per cent of Russia's imports from Africa.
We help the continent in the field of professional training. Currently approximately 30 Liberians study in the Russian universities. We are ready to consider in the future the possibility of increasing the Liberian quota for state stipends according to the needs of this country. We assist African countries in the field of public health and also provide them with humanitarian aid including through the World Food Program and OHCR. In 2003, Russia made a voluntary contribution in the amount of 2 million US dollars to finance humanitarian operations in Africa.
Russia firmly intends to actively assist in comprehensive solution of complex problems facing the continent and Liberia in particular.
As the internal situation in Liberia stabilizes we will be ready to develop and expand mutually beneficial and all?round cooperation with that country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.