Ivory Coast's Gbagbo agrees to negotiationTuesday 04 January 2011 16.05
Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has agreed to negotiate a 'peaceful end' to the tussle for presidency of the country and to lift a blockade on his rival's base, African mediators have said.
'Mr Laurent Gbagbo agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any preconditions,' African Union and ECOWAS mediators said in a statement.
It comes a day after meeting Mr Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, who both claim to be president.
Mr Gbagbo had also pledged to immediately lift a blockade around the Golf Hotel, Mr Ouattara's temporary headquarters in the capital Abidjan, they said in a joint statement.
The African envoys - three presidents and a prime minister - also said that Mr Ouattara had pledged to ensure a dignified exit for Mr Ggabgo should he accept him as the winner of the 28 November election run-off.
'Mr Ouattara indicated his willingness to ensure a dignified exit for Mr Gbagbo provided the latter accepted the outcome of the election as declared by the independent electoral commission and certified by the UN,' they said.
In a statement read out by the ECOWAS commission chief James Victor Gbeho, the team reiterated a 'fervent call' to Mr Gbagbo to peacefully hand over power 'without delay'.
They appealed to both sides to refrain from acts that could worsen the already critical situation in the world's leading cocoa-producing country.
It was feared the standoff could see a return to civil conflict.
The team also urged the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to 'despatch another joint high level mission to Cote d'Ivoire as soon as possible to continue discussions with the two parties.'
The African Union tasked Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga with mediating in the crisis, while ECOWAS is represented by presidents Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, Boni Yayi of Benin and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde.