PRETORIA, South Africa – A debate over who won elections in Ivory Coast would set back attempts to resolve a crisis in the West African country, a South African official said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, South Africa's foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane described the outcome of Ivory Coast's November elections as "inconclusive," and repeatedly refused to say who South Africa believed won. International organizations say Alassane Ouattara won and the results were certified by the U.N.
Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down, and the standoff has led to a humanitarian crisis and fears of renewed civil war.
South African President Jacob Zuma is part of a five-member panel the African Union appointed to try to find a peaceful way to install Ouattara as president. Zuma is joining the other members of the panel for talks in Ivory Coast Monday.
Nkoana-Mashabane said delegations from both Ouattara and Gbagbo have sought South Africa's intervention and see her country as neutral. She said both delegations have said the November vote was flawed.
Discussing the elections is debating the past, Nkoana-Mashabane said.
"I thought it was not our business to drag them backward, but to help them move forward," she said.
South Africa's stance has been seen by some as an endorsement of Gbagbo. Nkoana-Mashabane denied that.
"President Zuma has said that we hold no brief for any faction in Cote d'Ivoire," she said, using the French-speaking country's French name. "We have no favorite."