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Dialogue between parties in Somalia raises hope for normalization: UN envoy

11 July 2006 Though ‘hardliners’ within the Islamic groups that now control the Somali capital of Mogadishu are causing serious concern, talks between those groups and the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) hold out the possibility the situation can be normalized, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today.

“My assessment is not that the situation is now normalized,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall, told reporters at UN Headquarters following his briefing yesterday to the Security Council, which he said also covered humanitarian issues, violations of the arms embargo and proposed exemptions to the embargo to allow proposed peace support forces or national security forces to arm themselves.

“My assessment is that we should continue to encourage the TFI and the new reality in Mogadishu to enter into genuine dialogue and to continue the dialogue to find the best solution to normalize the situation,” he continued.

In his latest report on the situation in Somali, released last week, Secretary-General Annan said it was crucial that the transitional Government be supported during the current crisis so as not to lose the “painstaking” political gains in the country, which has been without a functioning Government since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime 15 years ago.

After Mr. Fall’s briefing to the Council yesterday, however, his office said that ceasefire violations had eroded hopes raised by a 22 June meeting between TFI officials and a delegation of the Union of Islamic Courts whose militias are holding Mogadishu, and that hardliners within that group were a “serious threat to peace.”

Despite that threat, Mr. Fall said he is encouraging the parties to make progress in the next round of dialogue scheduled for this Saturday in Khartoum.

Mogadishu is now calm after renewed fighting over the weekend, he said, and a recently completed UN security assessment would be followed by a humanitarian coordination group.

He told the Security Council that the humanitarian situation in Somalia remained grave, with the fighting in Mogadishu, where 250,000 had already been displaced, exacerbating an already dire situation in a country that was just coming out of a long-term drought and would remain in a state of humanitarian emergency at least until December.

In a separate press conference today, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland appealed for more resources to get food and other vital aid to war-weary people in Somalia as well as in Darfur and Gaza, citing the immense difficulties in getting such aid through in those respective battle zones.

He also called for commitments from parties on the ground to help push through aid to innocent civilians trapped by conflict, and for urgent action to ensure the safety of relief workers in those areas.

Although Somalia had been one of the “rare remote control operations” where some international assistance had been able to get through during active fighting, the fresh combat had made the already tenuous humanitarian situation worse, he said.

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