Ivory Coast: Ouattara and Gbagbo meet for the first time in 10 years

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It's a long-awaited meet. In a key moment in Ivory Coast's turbulent politics, President Alassane Ouattara will sit with his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday for the first time since the pair fought in the 2010-2011 post-election conflict, over a decade ago.

The conflict that broke out claimed more than 3,000 lives. After he was ousted, Gbagbo was flown to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Many in the West African country hope this will meeting will be a step further towards national reconciliation, and help bury the hatchet between the two politicians, who to this day, remain the most influencial men in Ivory Coast.

Commentators will be scrutinising Tuesday's meeting for signs of whether the two former rivals have buried the hatchet, boosting hopes for national healing after bloody clashes last year.

But Gbagbo’s spokesman Justin Katinan Kone urged the public "not to make too much" of the meeting. "This is a courtesy visit to his elder... If it helps to ease the political atmosphere, so much the better," he said.

"Laurent Gbagbo is in a spirit of openness, dialogue and reconciliation," Franck Anderson Kouassi, spokesman for Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, told AFP on Monday.

"Meeting president Ouattara is exactly in line with our way of thinking."

Government spokesman Amadou Coulibaly said that Dialogue in Ivory Coast "will continue, because that is the government's will".

It's also the first time since Gbagbo returned from Europe last month, where he won a landmark case at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He was acquitted of crimes including murder, rape and persecution.

After the former president landed in Ivory Coast last month, many wonder if Laurent Gbagbo will make his official comeback to politics, or if he will stand back from his revered status amongst his Ivorian Popular Front supporters.

Analyst Rodrigue Kone said the long-expected encounter "won't wipe out their huge differences but it takes their relationship further along."

Ouattara's side, he suggested, "sees the meeting as a recognition by Gbagbo of Ouattara's legitimacy - something that hasn't been conveyed before in such a visible and official manner.

Nevertheless, this meeting remains a sign of hope for Ivory Coast, with desires to put an end to a decade of tensions.

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