The Somali transitional government has decided to halt its security operations against Islamist insurgents in a bid to boost reconciliation talks currently under way in Djibouti, a minister said Monday. "We have decided to stop all operations in Somalia to avoid civilian casualties," said Ahmed Abdisalan Adan, who is Somalia’s deputy prime minister and minister of youth, sports and information. "First we want to reconcile and find a political solution. After, we’ll handle the security. We want the Somali people to feel that peace is coming," he added.
He was speaking during a visit by a UN Security Council delegation to Djibouti, where UN-sponsored talks between Somalia’s main political rivals resumed on May 31. The talks come against a backdrop of near daily clashes between Ethiopian-backed troops from the Somali transitional federal government (TFG) and Islamist insurgents. Adan did not specify whether the Ethiopian military deployed in Somalia would take the same approach and curb its operations against Islamist militia. The main protagonists in the Djibouti talks are officials from the TFG and from the Asmara-based Islamist-dominated opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).
Although both sides have officially only engaged in indirect talks so far, Adan said they had been meeting informally on the sidelines. "During the last two days, we met informally. We are no strangers to each other. We do believe they have come here for peace," he said. "Even if we have different backgrounds, we have acknowledged that our ultimate goal is to get peace in Somalia ," he added. Some influential Islamist leaders have continued to insist that an Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia’s territory should be a precondition to negotiations with the government.
Somali Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama Jengali welcomed the visit by the ambassadors to the 15-nation UN Security Council. "This visit comes at a good schedule. We have briefed them on the situation in Somalia . They have expressed their concerns for Somalis and wished that we reconcile and focus on the future of the people and the country," he said. "Our delegation came here with an open mind to reach reconciliation. Now we have a good opportunity to move the process forward," he added.