President Saleh calls Horn of Africa together [Archives:2005/803/Front Page]

January 3 2005

President Ali Abullah Saleh has invited three countries to join the Sana'a Grouping of the Red Sea and Horn of Africa in an effort to bring peace to the area at the coalition's summit in Khartoum last Monday.

“I call to admit Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea into our Sana'a Group as this will be of benefit to all of us and will realize security and stability to our people,” said Saleh during his speech at the opening of the forum.

The Sana'a Group, which was established in October 2002, includes Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Saleh stressed the need for dialogue to ease continued tension and bring security, stability and development to the region.

“Yemen believes that disputes and misunderstandings can only be resolved through dialogue,” said Saleh. “Only dialogue, not other means, like media campaigns and interference in the affairs of others, can overcome problems.”

There have been strained relationships between Eritrea and both Sudan and Ethiopia. After a two-and-a-half year war over a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a cease-fire has remained fragile. Ethiopia turned down a demarcation proposal established by an independent border commission last September and Eritrea warned that the rejection could lead to more fighting in the future.

Saleh offered to launch an initiative to normalize relations between Eritrea and its two neighbors if each of the three countries accepted to participate.

“The Yemeni government is the one that is taking the initiative to stabilize the Horn of Africa,” said a foreign diplomat based in Yemen. “These are important steps because stability in East Africa helps to sustain security in the Middle East and other parts of the world.”

At the summit, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir announced that the government and the prominent rebel group in the south of the country will sign a peace agreement in the coming days to end a civil war that has lasted for over two decades.

“The final peace agreement will be signed during the remaining days of this year,” said Al-Bashir.

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The civil war, which has been the cause of two million deaths mostly from famine and disease, came from the Sudanese government fighting rebels trying to achieve a larger share of political power and wealth. Fighting in western Darfur region has brought the death toll up to 70,000 people while at least 1.8 million people have been displaced.

Saleh also called the African Union or the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces to help the new Somali government establish security and stability so that the war-torn country could unify and rebuild itself in the future.

“We call for sending African Union or United Nations troops to Mogadishu for restoration of peace and stability in Somalia,” said the President.

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was sworn in as Somalia's new president in Nairobi, Kenya last October. Fighting between warring factions has continued since the country's dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Up to one million Somalis have died in the civil war due to fighting, famine and disease, and around two million have fled the country. Mogadishu, the capital, remains divided between tribal leaders with an estimated 60,000 armed men still roaming the streets.

Saleh was the only leader of a Middle East country to have attended the ceremony of the new Somali president taking the oath of office. The Yemeni government has called on the Arab League to establish an Arab fund that would assist Somalia rebuild itself after its 13-year civil war.

At the end of the summit, leaders of the three countries pledged a commitment to establishing peace, security and sustainable development in the Horn of Africa and Southern Red Sea regions and to cooperate with the international community to fight terrorism.