UN, other members of Somalia support group call for cessation of hostilities

The United Nations and other members of a group supporting peace and reconciliation efforts in Somalia today called on all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities and protect civilians in the war-ravaged country.

In a communiqué released following talks in London, the International Contact Group expressed concerns about "continued sporadic violence" in Mogadishu and the resulting deaths and injuries.

Representing the world body at the Group's gathering in London was Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, who is on his way to the region to discuss how to bring peace and reconciliation to Somalia.

The Group strongly condemned "actions of extremists and terrorists and those looking to undermine the political and reconciliation process."

The communiqué welcomed the assurances given by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that a planned Reconciliation Congress "will be fully inclusive and that no clan or sub clan, or individual members of them who renounce violence and are selected by their clans, are excluded from the reconciliation process."

The Contact Group said it would fund the Congress, which "should lead to a process of genuine political reconciliation."

The Group agreed to continue to work with all parties to address the humanitarian needs of the Somali people and called on all parties to provide free and unhindered humanitarian access.

According to UN figures, 340,000 people, roughly one third of the capital's population, have fled the hostilities in Mogadishu since the start of February, while at least 1,000 have sustained injuries. The recent violence is some of the worst the country has seen in the 16 years it has gone without a functioning Government.

The International Contact Group for Somalia includes Italy, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States, together with the African Union, European Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, League of Arab States and the UN.

Also attending today's meeting were the leaders of the TFG, senior officials of the Group's member States and the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall.