Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan who headed a strategic Liberian delegation to neighboring Ivory Coast, on Wednesday night upon his return, briefed journalists on fruitful bilateral discussions held with counterpart officials of Government of The Ivory Coast. The visit was a one-day working meeting on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

The official trip was a follow-up to last week’s sidelined bilateral talks held between Minister Ngafuan’s delegation and the Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouatarra, along with key ministers during a recent Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Extraordinary Summit on the Malian and Guinea-Bissau crises.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, the 13-member Liberian delegation included high-ranking officials of the Justice, Defense and Internal Affairs Ministries and other relevant agencies. At the meeting, the delegation discussed, amongst other matters, ways of improving security along the over 600 kilometers of the porous border with Ivory Coast, the reactivation of the Liberian – Ivory Coast Joint  Commission, and refugees’ situation.

On the issue of Joint Commission signed in 1973, Minister Ngafuan revealed that “Since [its] signing, the agreement has not been updated. He further disclosed that the two countries would pursue new areas of cooperation, including social and cultural lines, as they explore ways to update the Joint Commission.

On April 25th, a reported raid on an Ivorian border-village left 8 Ivoirians dead, and is believed to have been staged by a group of unidentified men crossing over from Liberia. This raid, according to Ivorian authorities, brought the total number of Ivoirians killed under such circumstances to 40.

The Foreign Ministry release said Minister Ngafuan disclosed that following these discussions, the parties agreed that the security forces of both nations, assisted by the respective peacekeeping forces of the United Nations Missions operating in the two countries, will strengthen their presence along the border in order to address future security challenges.

The United Nations Operations in Cote d’Ivoire (UNICO) which replaced the United Nations Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (MINUCI) since 2004 and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have successfully maintained the peace in both countries.

Speaking further on key discussions, Foreign Minister Ngafuan remarked that “[the Parties] also agreed to sensitize the local populations on the need to assist security forces to maintain peace and harmony. We also agreed that both internal/interior ministries draw up concrete actions involving local authorities to assist the security operations along the border”.

Foreign Minister Ngafuan told journalists that the agreements included the drawing up of a schedule of implementation for joint-border operations, the extradition of detained Ivorian mercenaries at the Zwedru Correction Facilities in Grand Gedeh County, and the formal turnover of six vehicles stolen from the Ivory Coast during the conflict.

Foreign Minister Ngafuan, on the refugee situation, also disclosed that an agreement for the LRRRC to meet with the UN refugee agency in The Ivory Coast by the middle of this month to draw up plans to address the refugee situation along the border was reached.

Other members of the Liberian Delegation were Acting Justice Minister and Solicitor-General of Liberia, Cllr. M. Watkins Wright, Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major-General Suraj Abdurrahman, Internal Affairs Minister Blamoh Nelson and National Security Agency Director Fombah Sirleaf.

Dr. H. Boimah Fahnbulleh National Security Advisor to the President, the Commissioner-Designate of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Cllr. Albla Williams, Liberia Reintegration, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) boss Cllr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes, Assistant Minister for Afro-Asian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government officials also formed part of the delegation.