(AFP) – Jun 9, 2008
DJIBOUTI (AFP) — The Somali government and its main political foes signed a three-month cessation of hostilities accord at UN-sponsored peace talks in Djibouti Monday, a UN spokeswoman told AFP.
"The cessation of armed confrontation shall come into force 30 days from the signing of this agreement throughout the national territory," said the text of the deal sent to reporters.
It will cover an initial period of 90 days after which it will be renewed.
Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein and Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) chief Sheikh Sharif Ahmed signed the accord at the ceremony witnessed by the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The ARS is an opposition umbrella group dominated by Islamists and based in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.
While some Islamist leaders and influential clan leaders joined the talks, other hardline Islamists, insisting the mediation was biased, have maintained their call for an Ethiopian withdrawal before any talks.
The rivals asked the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers from countries friendly to Somalia -- excluding neighbouring states -- within 120 days from the day the armistice takes effect, the text said.
Over the same period, the government "will act in accordance with the decision that has already been taken by the Ethiopian government to withdraw its troops from Somalia after the deployment of a sufficient number of UN forces."
They agreed to form a UN-chaired Joint Security Committee within 15 days of signing to oversee the truce implementation. They will also meet on July 30 to discuss political cooperation, justice and reconciliation.
The parties urged the international community to fund the implementation process and pledged to consider convening an international reconstruction and development conference for Somalia within six months.
They agreed to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to some 2.6 million needy Somalis.
Susannah Price, the spokeswoman for the top UN envoy to Somalia, told AFP the delegates were yet to decide on the fate of this round of talks, which opened May 31 following a similar first round that ended on May 16.
The accord was inked as Mogadishu remains under artillery fire from feuding insurgents and Somali forces backed by Ethiopian allies.
The negotiations received a boost on June 2 with the visit of a delegation from the UN Security Council, which was touring Africa last week.
The African Union, which has some 2,600 peacekeepers deployed in Somalia -- short of the pledged 8,000 troops -- has also lent its support to the Djibouti talks.
The AU's Peace and Security Council has urged Somali factions that have so far shunned the process to join it, in a bid to end more than 17 years of conflict.
Ethiopian forces deployed in 2006 and ousted Islamists from south and central Somalia where they had imposed Islamic law, or the sharia.
But 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.
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