United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the accord signed by Somali leaders on the political transition of their country, which has long been wracked by war and poverty.
Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, they reached agreement on a charter that would help lay the foundations for an effective, working system of government after years of civil conflict.
Mr. Annan "encourages Somali leaders to build on the progress achieved and swiftly conclude the Somali National Reconciliation Conference with the establishment of an inclusive government," he said in a statement issued by his spokesman in New York.
The Secretary-General also praised the work of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, other leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and international supporters of the Somali peace process for their perseverance.
Mr. Annan's statement came as the UN refugee agency called for "a drastic increase" in support for the UN's programmes in Somalia to take advantage of the progress in the peace talks.
A high-level team from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today concluded a 20-day mission to Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Senior UNHCR officials reviewed the existing refugee schemes in Somalia and neighbouring countries. An estimated 200,000 Somali refugees are spread across Kenya, Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said more than half the country is enjoying a period of relative peace and stability. He told the press in Geneva that this "window of opportunity" should be exploited to promote the return of up to 30,000 refugees to the Somaliland and Puntland regions of Somalia.
Somalia remains one of the world's most destitute countries, ranking third poorest out of 174 nations surveyed in the latest UN Human Development Index. The UNHCR estimates that more than 90 per cent of returning refugees do not have enough money to meet their basic needs.