UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday expressing "full support" to Gambia's new President Adama Barrow and calling on ex-leader Yahya Jammeh to step down, condemning "in the strongest terms possible" his attempts to usurp power.
In a last-minute revision to the resolution, after Barrow took the oath of office shortly before the vote, the council backed efforts by the regional bloc ECOWAS to ensure that the new president's election victory on Dec. 1 is respected, using "political means first."
An initial reference to ECOWAS' use of "all necessary measures" — U.N. language for military force — in the draft circulated by Gambia's neighbor Senegal was dropped earlier. Instead, the reference to solving the crisis by peaceful political means was added because some members including Russia, Egypt and Bolivia objected to any reference to support for military action.
Russia's deputy ambassador Petr Iliichev said Moscow supported the resolution because it wants to promote a peaceful transition of power, "avoid bloodshed and further destabilization," and back ECOWAS' efforts to find a way out of the current impasse through peaceful means.
Iliichev told reporters that if diplomacy fails, Barrow can request military or other assistance.
Britain's deputy U.N. ambassador Peter Wilson expressed hope for a peaceful resolution but said "it's very clear that if president Barrow asks for assistance, then that's something as the legitimate president of Gambia he's perfectly entitled to do."
The United States and others called on all parties, especially Gambia's military, to press for peace, exercise restraint and avoid bloodshed.
Looking at the wider impact of the Gambia crisis, Italy's U.N. Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi said it shows "that there can be no longer any space for those who ignore the legitimate will of the people in West Africa."
Ethiopia's U.N. Ambassador Tekeda Alemu warned that the crisis "will have consequences for the region."
"We are seeing how things are quickly deteriorating," he said, "and for this very reason every possible effort has to be made to make sure that this country does not descend into chaos."