REUTERS - The United Nations Security Council lifted a 12-year-old arms embargo on Ivory Coast on Thursday and renewed the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African state for a final year.
The world's top cocoa grower has emerged from a decade-long crisis that culminated in a brief 2011 war to become a rising African economic star. The UN arms embargo was imposed in 2004 after an initial 2002-2003 civil war.
"(Ivory Coast's) example proves that security endeavors can attain their ends when assisting a country in extracting itself from a crisis," French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council after the unanimously voted.
The decision came just days after a UN report on conflict in Ivory Coast revealed countries and companies who violated the arms embargo, including an Israeli firm whose night-vision equipment reached the country in 2015.
UN peacekeepers, who were deployed in 2004, will leave Ivory Coast by April 30, 2017, according to the resolution. The United Nations will then have two months to complete the mission's closure. There are currently some 6,900 UN troops and police in Ivory Coast, according to the UN website.
The Security Council removed the arms embargo and an asset freeze and travel ban on six people, including former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo who is on trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
In 2014, the Security Council partially eased the arms embargo on Ivory Coast and removed a ban on its diamond exports, a measure that UN experts said had failed to stop illicit trafficking.
Those UN experts, who monitor the arms embargo, said earlier this year that Ivory Coast rebel leader-turned-parliament speaker Guillaume Soro used the 2011 civil war and its aftermath to acquire hundreds of tons of weapons, many of which remain under the control of his loyalists in the army.
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