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Guinea-Bissau: ICRC acts as neutral intermediary

16-10-1998 News Release 98/41

The members of the delegation representing the opposition forces at peace talks on Guinea-Bissau that took place in Abidjan in mid-September were stranded for three weeks in Banjul, Gambia, after problems arose in obtaining safety guarantees for their return by air over the zone held by Guinea-Bissau government troops. The Guinea-Bissau authorities therefore asked the ICRC, which has been present in the country since the rebellion began, to arrange for the delegation to travel between the capital Bissau – a seaport and therefore accessible from international airspace – and the rebel-held area. Acting as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC obtained the consent of both parties for its plan to provide safe passage.

The operation took place on 8 October with the cooperation of diplomats from the countries that had taken part in the talks. The opposition representatives arrived by helicopter at the national stadium in Bissau, under government control, then travelled the dozen kilometres to the front lines in a convoy of several vehicles displaying the protective red cross emblem, before proceeding to an airforce base under opposition control.