Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, the president of the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, told IRIN on Monday that the leaders' committee had agreed to propose to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development technical committee "to give Somaliland 50 extra delegates and five members in the leaders' committee". The leaders' committee comprises representatives of faction leaders, the Transitional National Government and five members of civil society.
Abdullahi Yusuf said the leaders had arrived at this decision for the sake of Somali unity. "We don't want to form a government without Somaliland," he said. "We should involve them and consult them. This kind of incentive is for the sake of Somali unity." He added that it was now up to the technical committee to take a decision.
Reacting to the call for the inclusion of Somaliland in the talks, the Somaliland minister of water and mineral resources, Mahmud Abdi Farah, said the Somaliland people had made their decision, put in place a constitution to govern themselves, and held free and fair elections, official Radio Hargeysa reported on 26 January.
Somaliland has consistently maintained that the peace talks do not concern it, because it is a "sovereign state with de facto recognition".
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, declared unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, but has received no international recognition.
Meanwhile, Abdullahi Yusuf said that the stance adopted by the newly elected Kenyan government, and the appointment of a highly respected diplomat to head the talks "will breathe new life" into the conference. "I am confident that if the Somalis themselves don't derail them, the talks will succeed," he asserted.
The appointment of retired Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat, to replace Elijah Mwangale, was officially announced on 18 January.
The talks, which started on 15 October under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, have been dogged by wrangles over representation and allocation of seats. But they are now expected to move into phase three in the "next couple of weeks", a source close to the talks told IRIN.
In phase three, the delegates will discuss the contentious issue of power-sharing and the establishment of an all-inclusive government.
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