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Fresh Round Of Somalia Peace Talks

Fresh Round Of Somalia Peace Talks Kicks Off In Khartoum – UN Spokesman

The Secretary-General’s top envoy to Somalia is taking part in peace talks starting today in Khartoum between the troubled Horn of Africa’s disputing parties, the Transitional Government and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts.

Francois Lonsény Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, is expected to release a statement tomorrow on the progress of the dialogue between the two sides, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters today at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Fall has called repeatedly for dialogue in recent weeks to defuse tensions in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. The Transitional Government was recently set up in Baidoa, while forces connected to the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts took over the capital of Mogadishu.

The Khartoum talks are taking place as the UN agriculture agency warns that a food crisis is looming in Somalia, with almost 2 million people requiring immediate help and the situation likely to worsen if the violence escalates into full-scale conflict.

Poor rainfall this year has meant cereal crop production has been well below average, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a press statement released at its headquarters in Rome.

About 1.8 million Somalis now need urgent support, at least until the end of the year, FAO said, noting that conditions are most severe in the country’s south. Acute malnutrition rates have already surpassed 20 per cent in Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba regions.

FAO said the situation is exacerbated by Somalia’s large population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) following years of civil conflict. There are an estimated 400,000 IDPs, often without access to their regular means of production.

The agency is concerned that the IDP population could swell even more if the tensions between the Transitional Government and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, escalate in the weeks and months ahead.

FAO Technical Director Cindy Holleman said “this would not only prolong the time period of the crisis, but further undermine the resilience and abilities of the population to manage future shocks.”


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