Somali Islamists peg direct talks on Woyanne pull-out – DJIBOUTI (AFP)

June 2nd, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Somalia’s main Islamist opposition group on Monday ruled out direct talks with the government without a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the war-racked country.

Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) deputy chair Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame said: “Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia is the main obstacle to peace.”

“At least we want to get a timetable for an Ethiopian withdrawal, then we can sit face-to-face,” said Warsame in Djibouti, where the latest round of reconciliation efforts resumed on May 31. (more…)

Somalia’s main Islamist opposition group on Monday ruled out direct talks with the government without a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the war-racked country.

Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) deputy chair Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame said: “Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia is the main obstacle to peace.”

“At least we want to get a timetable for an Ethiopian withdrawal, then we can sit face-to-face,” said Warsame in Djibouti, where the latest round of reconciliation efforts resumed on May 31.
“If this is addressed in the talks, we’ll sit with the TFG (Transitional Federal Government,” he added.

Warsame spoke as a UN Security Council team arrived in Djibouti to encourage talks to end Somalia’s 17-year-old conflict. Aid agencies and rights groups say fighting has killed at least 6,000 people in the past year alone.

“We have to agree that this issue of the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia will be genuinely addressed,” Warsame added.

Earlier in the day, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed told the Security Council delegation that the United Nations must deploy peacekeepers to Somalia before Ethiopian troops withdraw.

“The eventual withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia is contingent on the deployment of the United Nations peacemaking force and the cessation of hostilities,” he said.

“I would like to state very clearly that there should not be a security vacuum in Somalia.”

The two sides ended a first phase of discussions on May 16 without holding face-to-face talks, although a government official acknowledged Monday that they had met informally over the past two days.

Ethiopian forces came to the rescue of an embattled Somali government in late 2006 to oust an Islamist movement that controlled much of southern and central Somalia.

Since being toppled in early last year, Islamist fighters have carried out near-daily attacks against government and Ethiopian targets, as well as African Union peacekeepers.

Comments are closed.