December 7th, 2006 04:04 EST
U.N. Security Council Authorizes Regional Force for Somalia
United Nations -- The Security Council voted unanimously December 6 to back a regional peacekeeping force for Somalia.
The United States initiated the resolution, which was co-sponsored by the Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Tanzania. It authorizes the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) "to establish a protection and training mission in Somalia to be reviewed after an initial period of six months." (See related article.)
The United States "views the deployment of a regional force to Somalia as a key element in preventing conflict" and a "critical element to help resume credible dialogue" between the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.
"It will also help to create the conditions for Ethiopian and Eritrean disengagement from Somalia," he said.
"The United States strongly believes that a sustainable solution in Somalia should be based on credible dialogue between the TFIs and the UIC, and we continue to work with our African and other partners toward that end," Bolton said in formal remarks to the Security Council.
"The continued military expansion by the UIC, however, has not helped to promote dialogue and, in fact, has created the need for deployment of a regional force to stabilize the situation inside Somalia," the ambassador said. (See related article.)
Speaking with journalists outside the Security Council, Bolton noted that the resolution provided "an opportunity to have a regional peacekeeping force inserted into this area to try and prevent the situation from getting worse."
"The choice of doing nothing is really not a choice at all," he said. "The other option is that the instability we have seen in Somalia for over 15 years now would spread to the region as a whole."
The Security Council is often criticized for not acting in time. Supporting the regional peacekeeping force in Somalia is one way the council can try to prevent the situation from deteriorating, the ambassador added.
"We`re siding with the people of Somalia, who definitely need relief from the conflict that has been going on for far too long," Bolton said.
The resolution "may not be a complete solution to the problem -- that is one reason we`ve encouraged the mediation of various parties and have all the Somali factions talk with one another. That`s basic," the ambassador said.
The resolution emphasizes the need for "continued credible dialogue" between the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Union of Islamic Courts and urges the two sides to fulfill commitments they have made and resume peace talks "without delay."
The council also threatened to "consider taking measures" against those who block peace talks, attempt to overthrow the Transitional Federal Institutions or threaten regional stability. No measures were mentioned, but such language usually refers to sanctions.
According to the resolution, the peacekeeping mission will maintain and monitor security in Baidoa, the headquarters of the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Institutions, and protect members of the TFI and government and their key infrastructure. It will train the transitional authority`s security forces and help facilitate the re-establishment of national security forces in Somalia.
Funding for the force will be voluntary. The size and composition of the force will be up to IGAD, which has planned for an 8,000-strong mission from its seven East African member nations.
The Security Council also supported IGAD`s deployment plan, which excludes troops form states that border Somalia.
The Security Council also eased the arms embargo imposed on the country in 1992 to allow "weapons and military equipment and technical training and assistance intended solely for the support of or use by" the IGAD force.
The IGAD mission also will monitor the progress made by the two sides in implementing agreements reached during talks and ensure free movement and safe passage of those involved in the talks.
For further information, see Africa.
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