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Somalia: UN envoy calls on warring sides to return to peace talks

Somalia: UN envoy calls on warring sides to return to peace talks

Special Representative François Lonsény Fall
The top United Nations envoy for Somalia today appealed to the warring parties to settle their differences peacefully as the impoverished African country, already torn apart by 16 years of factional fighting, faced the additional challenge of devastating floods that have uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.

“After 16 years of conflict it is time for both sides to lower the temperature of their rhetoric and put the people first,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative François Lonsény Fall said after meeting with interested members of the international community at the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The military build-up and rising tensions inside Somalia threaten to make an alarming situation very much worse,” he added, calling on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to choose dialogue over conflict.

Mr. Fall said the TFG, based in the provincial city of Baidoa, and the UIC, which has gradually expanded its control since seizing Mogadishu, the capital, in June, made a good beginning when they met in Khartoum, Sudan, earlier this year.

“A continuation of the Khartoum dialogue would give them a further opportunity to flesh out their expectations and move towards a peaceful solution,” he stated. “Somalia has seen the wages of war. It’s high time the people had an opportunity to enjoy the wages of peace.”

The third round of the talks, to discuss security and power sharing in a country that has had no functioning national government since President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991, was slated for October, but was postponed because the two parties came with preconditions. They are now scheduled for the middle of this month.

Mr. Fall appealed to both sides to facilitate assistance for several hundred thousand civilians made homeless by the worst flooding in decades. “The UN agencies working in Somalia estimate that almost 500,000 people have been flooded from their homes and there might be worse to come,” he said.

“The rains are forecast to continue into next year. An international relief effort is underway, but humanitarian agencies need secure access for deliveries to those in need. Continued insecurity further complicates an already difficult task,” he added.