President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar and the mayor of Anatananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, Andry Rajoelina, have agreed to start a United Nations-facilitated dialogue to resolve their differences peacefully. This breakthrough comes after numerous dialogue sessions in the country’s capital.

Over 100 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the Indian Ocean island nation over the past week amid a dispute between Malagasy President Ravalomanana and Mayor Rajoelina. On Saturday, February 7, 2009, nearly 30 people were killed and dozens wounded during anti-government protests in Anatananarivo.

According to published reports, assistant UN secretary-general for political affairs Haile Menkerios, who was dispatched last week by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to assess the situation and explore how the UN could help, met Monday in the capital with President Ravalomanana and Mayor Rajoelina.

“Both parties deplored the loss of lives and agreed to put an end to the violence,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters. “They declared that they are committed to start a UN-facilitated dialogue and to resolve their differences peacefully.”

Montas added that Mr. Menkerios will continue consulting with all stakeholders and exploring how best the UN can support this dialogue process and contribute to national reconciliation.

Mr. Ban, in a statement issued early this week, had condemned Saturday’s tragic events and called on all concerned parties “to resolve their differences through peaceful and democratic means and through the exercise of responsible leadership.”