NAIROBI, Kenya: U.N.-sponsored peace talks on Somalia were postponed Friday without a deal on face-to-face discussions between the government and an opposition alliance backing an Islamist insurgency, officials said.
The two sides agreed to meet with diplomats again on May 31 after four days of talks in Djibouti when the two sides refused to hold direct discussions.
The opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, a broad-based group covering both moderates and hard-line Islamists, said it would not be involved in direct talks until the government agrees a timetable for Ethiopian troops fighting the insurgency in Somalia to withdraw.
The opposition said nothing had been achieved except for naming the next date for talks, but U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah remained upbeat.
"It is a good day for Somalia," he said by telephone from Djibouti. "We should not minimize what has been achieved."
Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the chief negotiator for the alliance, said: "The most important thing we have agreed is to meet again. There is nothing else worth mentioning."
Ethiopia’s soldiers in Somalia are seen as crucial to the survival of the shaky government.
The government invited Ethiopian intervention in December 2006 when Islamist fighters seized control of most of central and southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.
The Ethiopians swiftly drove the Islamists out of Mogadishu but have since got bogged down as the insurgents fought back with tactics including roadside bombings and occasional suicide attacks.