The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has given former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano 30 days to resolve the crisis in Madagascar, local media AIM reported on Wednesday.
At an emergency SADC summit held at the weekend, Chissano was appointed the SADC mediator on Madagascar, with the task of bringing the parties in dispute to a negotiated solution that would lead to the return of Madagascar to constitutional rule.
The democratically elected president of the island, Marc Ravalomanana, was replaced by former mayor of Antananarivo Andry Rajoelina with the backing of the military in March.
The unconstitutional change was condemned by the SADC and the African Union, which respectively suspended the Indian Ocean island state. Most European and American aid to Madagascar has been cut.
Chissano discussed the terms of reference for his Madagascar mandate on Tuesday at a meeting in Mozambique's capital Maputo with SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao.
Salomao said there was consensus among SADC leaders on the appointment of Chissano. The former president was chosen because of his internationally recognized diplomatic and political experience, his deep knowledge of the southern African region, and his fluency in Madagascar's official language, French.
"To convince the opposing parties to come to the negotiating table, we had to find a person with these qualities, and I think President Joaquim Chissano is the right person," said Salomao.
Chissano's immediate task is to persuade Rajoelina and his Prime Minister Albert Zafy to sit at the same table as Ravalomanana and with his predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka.
Since the Rajoelina regime has had Ravalomanana sentenced in absentia to four years imprisonment for alleged abuse of power, it will be difficult to hold such a meeting inside Madagascar.
Salomao said the SADC's preferred solution to the crisis is to hold early elections in Madagascar and that the AU also holds this view. This would allow the Malagasy people to choose who they want to lead them.
"This should happen as soon as possible so that normality returns," said Salomao, "and so that the people of Madagascar can concentrate on what is fundamental for them, which is the elimination of poverty."