The UK Government remain deeply concerned about the ongoing political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. We support the strong statements that have been made by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union. Both have made clear—and we agree—that Mr Laurent Gbagbo should immediately and peacefully hand over power to Mr Alassane Ouattara in accordance with the wishes of the Ivorian people.
The latest registration figures show that 31,000 refugees have fled from the Ivory Coast to eastern Liberia in the last two months alone. Having just returned from a medical visit to Liberia with representatives of the charity Merlin and the Royal Society of Medicine, and having met the President of Liberia and Health Ministers, I know that the country is hardly best placed to deal with such an influx, recovering as it is from 14 years of a brutal civil war. Can the Minister tell us what we are doing to help the people of the Ivory Coast, and how we are pushing for peace in the area?
I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a totemic issue for all Africa. It is essential that Laurent Gbagbo must not be allowed to defy the will of the people, and it is very important that his funding is cut off, so I am very pleased that the west African central bank—Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest—has now cut off the Ivorian national reserves and I am confident that this will apply real pressure.