8 December 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the long-awaited multi-party talks launched in the Central African Republic (CAR) set the stage to begin a national reconciliation process that is crucial to bringing stability to the land-locked country. “In attending this dialogue, you have put the interest of the nation and the people of the Central African Republic above all other interests,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the two-week gathering in the capital, Bangui. “This is encouraging, and proves your determination to reconcile your differences through dialogue, not violence,” he added. The country has been beset by widespread fighting and armed banditry in recent years, with some 200,000 Central Africans have been either internally displaced by the fighting or forced to live as refugees in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon. In June, the Government struck an agreement with the rebel groups known as the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) after talks in Libreville, Gabon, facilitated by that country”s President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba. “Stability can unleash the rich potential of the country’s people, and put its abundant natural resources to use for its citizens’ well-being and prosperity,” the Secretary-General said, noting that efforts must be undertaken to fight poverty, build strong national institutions and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law. He acknowledged that conflict in the sub-region will continue to jeopardize stability in the CAR, but noted “with satisfaction” the support of regional States for the talks, and pledged that the UN will do its utmost to help put the recommendations of the dialogue into practice. Mr. Ban expressed his gratitude to Mr. Ondimba for his efforts to facilitate peace in the CAR, as well as to former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya for chairing the dialogue.