Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, chairman of the Alliance for Re-Liberation of Somalia [ARS], has said that the alliance is carrying out a liberation operation in order to remove the Ethiopian forces from Somalia.
In an exclusive interview with Al-Jazeera, Sheikh Sharif said that all resistance groups support negotiations with the government in order to set a timetable for the departure of the Ethiopian forces from the country.
We are carrying out a liberation operation now. In case the Ethiopian forces leave, with whom will l fight then? If a timetable was set for the departure of the Ethiopian forces, with whom will they fight? The whole resistance supports negotiations because fighting is intended to find a solution via negotiations; this is what happened, and negotiations are ongoing, the results, and what the whole resistance wants is to remove the Ethiopian forces » he said.
Sharif has been leading the ARS members took part Djibouti peace talks where they’ve signed peace agreement with the transitional government.
Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein and Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) chief Sheikh Sharif Ahmed signed the accord late Monday.
The outcome of the talks were rebuffed by senior islamist leaders including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys
« I do not believe that the outcome of this conference will have any impact on the resistance in Somalia. We shall continue fighting until we liberate our country from the enemies of Allah, » Aweys told Mogadishu-based Shabelle radio.
« The aim of the meeting was to derail the holy war in the country, » added Aweys, a hardline cleric designated a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
Aweys is a member of the ARS, an opposition umbrella group dominated by Islamists and based in the Eritrean capital Asmara.
While some Islamist leaders and influential clan leaders joined the talks, Aweys and other hardline Islamists stayed away, saying they would not participate unless Ethiopian troops backing government forces pulled out of Somalia.
They also insisted the conference was biased.
According to the accord, Ethiopian troops would withdraw after the United Nations deployed peacekeepers from countries friendly to Somalia — excluding neighbouring states — within 120 days after the armistice takes effect.
On May 15, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution opening the way to a gradual return of UN staff to Somalia and possibly resulting in the deployment of peacekeepers there, but did not set a timetable.
But Aweys said the new truce did not set a deadline for the pullout of Ethiopian troops, who deployed at the end of 2006 and ousted Islamists from south and central Somalia.
« The agreement does not offer a timetable of the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces. It is not clear when they will leave, » Aweys added.
The Islamists have waged a guerrilla war since then, which according to international rights groups and aid agencies has left at least 6,000 civilians dead.
The country has been plagued by an uninterrupted civil war since the 1991 overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre. A string of previous peace initiatives and truce deals have failed.