Houphouët-Boigny treated foreign policy as his personal domain. Following independence, his long-term foreign policy objective had been to enhance economic development and political stability in Côte d'Ivoire. That objective was manifested in foreign policies that sought, first, to maintain an organic relationship with France, Côte d'Ivoire's principal and most consistent donor and, second, to control the regional environment in order to guarantee access to cheap labor from Mali and Burkina Faso.
Although Côte d'Ivoire eschewed close links with the Soviet Union and its allies, Ivoirian policymakers were nominally disposed toward treating all foreign powers equally. One former minister of foreign affairs insisted that Côte d'Ivoire was the foe of no ideology or any regime. Nevertheless, Côte d'Ivoire had no diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union from 1969, when relations with Moscow were severed, until February 1986. Only a month earlier, the cabinet had approved a measure to reestablish ties with Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea). Relations with Romania and Poland had already been re-established several years earlier.
Closer to its borders, Côte d'Ivoire alternatively befriended or attempted to isolate the rulers of the five states that surrounded it: Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Recognizing that "the oasis never encroaches upon the desert," Houphouët-Boigny sought to cultivate mutually beneficial ties with these five states, while allowing economic and political differences to persist. Military leaders in the neighboring states allowed their nationals to enter the Ivoirian labor pool, which eased a serious unemployment problem in their respective countries. Through the Council of the Entente (Conseil de l'Entente), in which Côte d'Ivoire is by far the dominant power and largest contributor, the Ivoirians aided Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, and Togo. Houphouët-Boigny also scored a diplomatic triumph in 1985 when he brokered a peace agreement ending the border conflict between Burkina Faso and Mali. Houphouët-Boigny also facilitated Guinea's return to the franc zone.
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