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Press Conference By Secretary-General's Special Representative For Somalia
Mr. Fall had told the Security Council this morning that the conflict in the war-torn country was “very, very sensitive today –- at a critical level”. Urging the Council to “take more action”, he warned that “if something is not done now, this conflict might have some regional dimension”. The Council was due to issue a presidential statement on the situation soon. In addition to updating the Council on the conflict’s regional implications, he had provided updates on the humanitarian and political situations, and on the arms embargo.
Following his briefing to the Council, the Special Representative told correspondents at a press conference that, along with the control of those major districts –- Mogadishu, Balad and Jawhar -- there had been some additional movement in Baidoa, northwest of Mogadishu, as well as along the shared border with Ethiopia. The Sharia Court militia was now moving to the other regions, such as to Beledweyne and the border of Ethiopia.
There was a critical need to open a dialogue between the interim Government and the Union of Islamic Courts, he said. The framework for such talks should be the nationally recognized Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia. A team would soon travel to Jawhar to meet the leaders of the Sharia Court and to try to find a way to facilitate humanitarian access.
He noted the gains made by the Transitional Federal Institutions, including the adoption of the National Security and Civilization Plan. The Security Council had required the adoption of that Plan in response to the request by the African Union to lift the arms embargo, first imposed by the 15-member body through its adoption of resolution 733 (1992), he said. Also, the 53-nation African Union was meeting today with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the IGAD Partner Forum (IPF) and the United Nations in Addis Ababa, to try to work out the details of a peace support operation.
Responding to a series of questions about the Sharia Court, he said he did not have enough information concerning its intention, but he knew some of the members, among them, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan. That was why the first mission was going out to Jawhar to meet them, in what would be a first contact with them. There had been some encouraging news, namely the indication by the Sharia Court, through a statement made by Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, that it was willing to open a dialogue with the Transitional Federal Government. The Special Representative was encouraging the interim Government to establish a special committee, through which to immediately enter into dialogue with the Sharia Court.
Regarding the regional implications of the situation, he stressed that Somalia was a concern for many countries -- not only its neighbors, but also many other countries. As Somalia had been “stateless” for 15 years, it was important now for everyone concerned “to secure Somalia to avoid any interference in the Somalia issue, particularly by the neighboring countries, and also the external actors”.
Replying to another question, he explained that Somalia “is a failed State; the only failed State in the world”. The international community and the Somali leaders last year had agreed to establish the Transitional Federal Institutions. There had been a division among the leadership regarding some issues, including the deployment of foreign troops into Somalia. That problem had been solved when all the leaders had agreed in February to establish a functioning Government and Parliament. Since then, he had seen the creation of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in Mogadishu.
At the same time, however, all reports to the Security Council had indicated that there was some movement of extremists, he went on. It was at first thought that success in Somalia was possible, but then some extremist groups had begun to grow and a new situation had begun to evolve. During the period when there was no Government in Mogadishu, the Islamist group had established some security for the population and had begun to gain ground. With that and their firepower, they had been able to take control of the capital and other parts of the country.
Asked if he could confirm reports of some 300 Ethiopian troops having crossed into Somalia, he said he did not have a clear indication that Ethiopian troops had crossed the border, but he had some information indicating some movement of those troops around the border. Since many news reports were indicating that the Sharia Court was moving towards the Somali border with Ethiopia, perhaps that was the reason for the movement at the borders, but he could not confirm that.
There was some information regarding the possibility that Ethiopia might send troops across the border into Somalia, if the Islamic Courts moved on Baidoa, he replied to a follow-up question. “I believe that we should not lose Baidoa today, because, if we lose Baidoa today, we will lose the entire peace process and will have to go back -- many years back,” he added.
As for reports over the weekend that some of the warlords had left Mogadishu on a United States ship, he said he could not confirm that. However, he had just learned that people in a city north of Mogadishu had left the area. However, he did not have a clear indication of how they had left.
To a question about whether he was concerned that Mogadishu would become the next breeding ground for terrorists like the Al-Qaida organization, he said that the Sharia Court was giving “mixed signals”; he did not know their exact intention. Of course, there were some extremists among them, but not all the members of the Court were extremists.
Asked to elaborate on some of those mixed messages, and whether claims by the United States Government that Al-Qaida members, including those involved in the attacks on United States embassies in East Africa, were in Mogadishu and were protected by those new forces, were credible, he said that, during the last meeting of the international “contact group”, the United States Government had presented some links between some extremists living in Mogadishu and who were among the Islamic Sharia Court. They had provided about five or six names of people linked with extremist activities, including the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania.
To a further question, he replied that he could understand the concern of the American Government, which had said on many occasions that Mogadishu should not become a new centre for terrorists, a new Tora Bora. It was possible that what had happened in Afghanistan could happen in Somalia. That was why everyone, the whole international community, must work to install a functioning Government in Somalia, and, together face the threat of terrorism, “if the terrorists are in Somalia”.
United Nations tactics with respect to the Somali situation had not changed, he replied to another question. He was encouraging all Somalis, the Transitional Federal Government and the Sharia Court to enter into inclusive dialogue. That meant taking account of the needs of all Somalis.
Responding to another question, he said that Somaliland was part of his mandate; however, it was not up to him to decide the question of Somaliland. Rather, that was up to the Member States. Somaliland had declared its independence, as was its right, but recognition of that was up to all United Nations Member States. Somaliland had already requested recognition by the African Union. It was up to the Union’s member States to take a decision.
Asked whether the United States was arming or financing the Somali warlords or other factions to fight the Islamic militants, he said the focus should be on what lay ahead. At the last meeting of the international “contact group”, the United States Government had clearly indicated its willingness to work with the rest of the international community to restore peace and security in Somalia. It had also indicated that it favored the establishment of dialogue between the Islamist group and the Transitional Federal government. “All of us are on the same side today, and it is better to take that positive development to face the threats inside Somalia,” he added.
In a follow-up about whether he thought the United States was arming the Somali warlords, he said that that question should be referred to the Monitoring Group overseeing implementation of the arms embargo. He could not confirm that the Americans were funding the warlords, although many sources had indicated that.
(The Group’s latest report, dated 5 April 2006, was issued as document S/2006/229, annex.)
To another question, he said it was his guess that the Islamist group had some outside support.
Regarding the first contact with the Islamist group, he said there would be a security meeting in Jawhar this week, and humanitarian staff would soon travel to Jawhar to secure access for their activities. He would discuss with IGAD what it had to do to be in touch with the Islamist group directly.
The Monitoring Group’s report had mentioned an “unnamed country”, and another correspondent asked if that was a reference to the United States. Mr. Fall reiterated that such questions should be answered by the Monitoring Group, adding that perhaps that information would be in its next report.
Some weeks ago, the Puntland authorities and the Transitional Federal Government had met to discuss control of the national resources, and they had reached agreement on that. He said he was encouraging Puntland and the Federal Government to continue to work closely to protect Somalia’s national resources.
There was a threat against Puntland and Somaliland today, because of developments on the ground, he replied to another question. The leadership of Somaliland was very, very concerned about this new development.
Pressed about Al-Qaida’s involvement in the Islamist group, he said that, as soon as he had more information about their activities, he would supply that. As correspondents knew, however, Al-Qaida did not operate “in the sunlight”.
As to whether he felt the arms embargo should be eased, so that the Government could arm the police, he said that the question of the arms embargo was “moving”. On 10 May, the Security Council had adopted resolution 1676 (2006), in which it expressed its intention, in light of the Monitoring Group’s report, to consider specific actions to improve implementation of and compliance with the arms embargo of 1992.
For information media • not an official record
Source: United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)