Annan praises progress, calls for improved security

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has hailed the recent breakthrough in the Somali peace process paving the way for a transitional parliament, and urged all parties to continue to build on that progress to establish an inclusive government.

In his latest report to the UN Security Council on Somalia, however, Annan stressed the need for this political progress to be accompanied by serious efforts to bring about tangible improvements in the security situation on the ground.

In particular, he expressed concern over insecurity and violence in many parts of the country, and territorial tensions between the northern breakaway regions of Somaliland and Puntland over the Sool and Sanaag regions. "Insecurity and violence in many parts of the country, and more recently tensions over control of the Sool and Sanaag regions underline the fact that a comprehensive peace is both urgent and necessary in Somalia," Annan said.

"Somali leaders and their militias should also be aware that they will be held accountable for continued violations of human rights," he warned.

An agreement, signed on 29 January by leaders of Somali groups meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to iron out a number of contentious issues that had earlier been plaguing the peace talks, is expected to pave the way for a transitional parliament in Somalia. Thousands of Somalis have demonstrated in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the past week in support of the agreement.

Mahmud Abdi Affey, Kenya's special envoy to the Somali peace process, said preparations for the final phase of the peace process had almost been completed, and delegates were expected by "latest on Monday" to meet in a plenary to endorse the document in its original format.

Affey said some parties had earlier expressed reservation about certain sections of the agreement, but had withdrawn them following clarification by Kenya's foreign ministry, which is facilitating the talks.

"We do not anticipate any problem at the plenary. I think we will have a smooth session, and then we can move forward," Affey told IRIN. "The mood is good. It was just a question of misunderstanding of the text. The document will be endorsed unanimously," he said.

Members of parliament, when chosen, would elect a transitional president, thereby laying the foundation for an effective, working system of government after years of civil conflict, Annan said.

Progress in the two areas, Annan said, "would be conducive to the implementation of a political agreement", which would lend the agreement the credibility needed to attract the full support of Somalis and the international community.