President Alassane Ouattara of the Ivory Coast greeted his predecessor and longstanding foe Laurent Gbagbo in an effort to defuse political tensions in the West African country.
It marked the first time Ouattara and Gbagbo met since the Ivory Coast’s 2010-11 civil war, which claimed more than 3,000 lives.
The septuagenarian leapt into the spotlight since returning last month from Europe, where he won a landmark case at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the last months of his stormy rule from 2000 to 2011, Gbagbo rejected defeat by Ouattara in a presidential ballot.
The ensuing conflict claimed more than 3,000 lives. After he was ousted, Gbagbo was flown to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, of which he was eventually acquitted.
Commentators will be scrutinising meeting for signs of whether the two former rivals have buried the hatchet, boosting hopes for national rapprochement after deadly clashes last year.
The mere fact of seeing Ouattara and Gbagbo together is being seen as a sign of healing and a strong image for Ivorians in their quest for peace and national reconciliation
But Gbagbo’s spokesman Justin Katinan Kone urged the public “not to make too much” of the meeting, expected to last about half an hour and to be followed by a news conference
Franck Anderson Kouassi, spokesman for Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, says Laurent Gbagbo is in a spirit of openness, dialogue and reconciliation.
Gbagbo stated that he had urged Ouattara to continue peace efforts by releasing other civil war prisoners.