Addis Ababa – Ethiopia said on Friday it recognised the new transitional government in neighbouring Somalia but also urged it to reach agreement with its opponents, including clan warlords and two breakaway regions.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Somalia’s recently elected President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan met on Thursday to discuss a range of sensitive issues between the two nations, which went to war with each other in 1977.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the formation of Abdiqassim Salad’s transitional government “constituted a major achievement in the Somali peace process”.
Abdiqassim Salad was elected interim president in August at a peace conference between Somalia’s rival clans held in Arta in the neighbouring Red Sea state of Djibouti.
His government, which has a three-year term, is the first since Somalia fell into civil war a decade ago but it has not yet been able to assert control over the capital Mogadishu.
The Somali leader still faces opposition from clan warlords and the breakaway northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland.
Ethiopia has held talks with Abdiqassim Salad’s opponents and is believed to be concerned that Islamic fundamentalists may hold influence inside his government.
It urged him to hold serious negotiations with his rivals.
“Ethiopia recognises that the peace process needs to be completed by bringing into the process the other Somali parties that did not participate at the Arta conference,” the foreign ministry said.
The two countries went to war in 1977 when Somalia’s former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre invaded the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. His forces finally withdrew in March 1978.
Ethiopia has in recent years accused different factions inside Somalia of helping Islamic fundamentalist rebel groups such as Al Ittihad launch cross-border raids into Ethiopia.
Somali Foreign Minister Ismael Hurre said on that Al Ittihad no longer has a presence inside Somalia and the government had no intention of supporting Islamist rebels.
“As far as security is concerned, such fundamentalist groups are more of a danger to us than Ethiopia,” he said. “After all, the security of Ethiopia and Somalia are interdependent.” – Reuters
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