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Somalia Dialogue

A first round of talks between the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions and representatives of the Islamic courts in Mogadishu was held on June 22nd in Khartoum. This meeting resulted in a seven-point agreement, including recognition of the “legality” of the Transitional Federal Institutions and the “reality” of the Islamic courts, an end to antagonistic propaganda and hostilities, and continued discussions on security and other issues without preconditions.

Both sides promised to meet again July 22nd. But that meeting was canceled when a militia aligned with the Islamic Courts moved toward Baidoa, the city in Somalia where the transitional government is based. Elements of the Islamic courts now refuse to continue dialogue with the Transitional Federal Institutions.

The United States is urging diplomacy. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey called on both the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic courts to recommit to the principles of the June 22nd agreement and to immediately resume a process of peaceful dialogue without preconditions. And, said Mr. Casey, while the U.S. "urges all of Somalia's neighbors to avoid any actions that might prevent Somali parties from continuing this dialogue, neither the Islamic courts nor the Transitional Federal Institutions should use external actors as an excuse to avoid further discussions.”

Since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamad Siad Barre, Somalia has not had an effective central government. Anarchy and clan warfare reigned. In 2004, the Transitional Federal Assembly was established following a two-year reconciliation process in Kenya. But the Islamic Courts and its militias are now in control of Mogadishu, the capital, and several other cities in Somalia.

State Department spokesman Casey says, "The United States reiterates its support for the establishment of a functioning government that incorporates all elements of Somali society." This objective can only be achieved, he said, "through broad-based dialogue that includes all key stakeholders in Somalia, such as civil society, women's groups, business leaders, and clan leaders, in addition to the Islamic Courts and Transitional Federal Institutions."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.