Security Matters Really Affect Everything, Not Just The Viability Of Elections..., Says Amb Blaney

(A press Statement Made by US Ambassador John W. Blaney on the Liberia Peace Process Delivered on May 6, 2003)

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 12, 2003

Good day, ladies and gentlemen of the press. I know that you are going to have a busy week covering visitors to Liberia, so I will not keep you long this time.

In fact, I wanted to make a few comments about those important visitors. In town today is the UN-led Needs Assessment Team, which also has representatives on it from ECOWAS and the AU. As you know, the United States has urged that such a team come to Liberia for some time, so we are pleased that they are in Liberia. Their job is of central importance for charting a viable roadmap; one that will allow Liberia to extract itself from misery and endless violence.

The United States therefore urges all Liberians, the government, all political parties as well as all those fighting against this government to listen carefully to the recommendations of the UN Needs Assessment Team. Incidentally, the United Nations Contact Group on Liberia will be briefed by members of the UN-led Needs Assessment Team when the Contact Group meets in Brussels on May 12th.

The UN-led Needs Assessment Team is not the only manifestation this week of the international community’s increasing interest in helping Liberians address their crisis and end the violence. As many of you know, General Abubakar is on a fact-finding mission this week in the Mano River Union area, including Liberia. This event, like the UN-led Needs Assessment Team and the upcoming meeting of the International Contact Group on Liberia in Brussels, are all interrelated activities that are designed to help set the state for the later Roundtable talks involving Liberian stakeholders and the cease-fire talks between the Government of Liberia and the LURD. The United States thinks those talks should occur this month as well.

Meanwhile, I view positively that Liberian stakeholders have already been discussing key issues. Such public debate in advance of the Contact Group meeting and the Roundtable/Cease-fire Talks should make consensus building easier.

A Comprehensive Peace Process

As many of you know, the United States has been working diligently to help create a genuine peace process. Such a process certainly would include a cease-fire, but to be lasting and effective, would have to be much more than just a cease-fire. In that regard, we think that it was constructive that the Government of Liberia and the LURD agreed to meet without preconditions. We also welcome the Government of Liberia’s decision to accept the UN-led Needs Assessment Team.

At the Cease-fire Talks, the United States will be taking measure of the seriousness and political will for peace of both sides. We call upon both sides to show flexibility during cease-fire negotiations, and not empty rhetoric or useless recitals of one-sided positions.

I hope all can agree with me that Liberia must have peace very soon, and the United States expects direct pragmatic exchanges at the these meetings, minimizing accusation and posturing.

It will be absolutely critical for the Roundtable/Cease-fire Talks to engage across-the-board on all the key issues. You all know them, and you also understand that a partial agreement will likely soon give way to failure unless all the underlying problems to this conflict are addressed adequately and in a correct sequence.

For example, you understand that having a strong program for achieving fair and free elections in Liberia is not only critical for Liberia’s democracy, but is also important for achieving and maintaining a lasting peace. Security matters really affect everything, not just the viability of elections, but justice, human rights and the sustainability of any peace accord.

In other words, Liberians and others who are in these meetings should consider an entire package of resolutions needed for Liberia to extract itself from this crisis and begin an era of internal and regional peace, justice and development. We should all work hard to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that this time around, all necessary actions are taken in the right order, are comprehensive and are agreed to solemnly from the beginning, lest Liberia begin upon yet another bitter journey.

Give the Peace Process a Chance

The United States recognizes that there are significant differences of view that will have to be addressed at the Roundtable/Cease-Talks. My government demands rapid progress, but recognizes that all problems may not be resolved at once.

It is therefore important to state that the United States will expect all combatants to give this political process a real chance to succeed. Specifically, the United States expects all government, LURD and MODEL forces to exercise restraint during this negotiating period by ordering their respective forces to assume more defensive force postures.

This should minimize disruptive military engagements during these sensitive negotiations, and should also ease somewhat the disruption of humanitarian assistance to many people now in dire need.

Finally, a word to MODEL. The United States expects MODEL forces, as well as those of LURD and the Government, to respect the human rights of all people, including POWs. We also expect MODEL to protect and facilitate relief workers who are trying to get humanitarian assistance to those in need. Needless to say, the United States demands that all sides ensure the safety of any and all American citizens in territory under their control.

Lift of the 30-Kilometer Limit

I wanted to mention briefly that the United States and Liberia have successfully negotiated the mutual lifting of the restrictions on the geographical movements to their respective diplomats, here in Liberia, and in the United States.

Registering American Citizens

Finally, I want to take this occasion to remind all American citizens that they should register with the U.S. Embassy if they have not already done So. This is a country at war, and we need to know where you are, and how to make contact. Furthermore, in the event of family-related emergencies, carrying out family requests is very difficult without this information. So, if you have not registered with the U.S. Embassy, please do so at once.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.