NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Peace talks involving representatives from the Somali government and the country’s Islamic-backed opposition began Monday in Djibouti, a diplomat said.
Abdirahman Mohamed, a top Somali diplomat in Djibouti, confirmed that representatives from the United Nations, European Union and African Union also were present.
However, he said the opposition has refused to hold direct talks with the Somali government, putting the U.N.-sponsored peace process in jeopardy.
The opposition had delayed the start of the talks by demanding international guarantees that Ethiopian troops will withdraw from Somalia. The troops have been in Somalia since 2006 to back the country’s fragile transitional government.
Opposition negotiator Abdirahman Abdi Shakur Warsame said he has received no assurances about the troop withdrawal but would attend Monday’s talks. He described it as «a face-saving event» for the United Nations.
Reconciliation Minister Abdirisaq Ashkir Abdi said the government is «very optimistic» about the peace process.
None of the groups involved in the talks was available for comment after the opening ceremony.