Yemen mediates to resolve Somalia conflict [Archives:2007/1018/Front Page]

January 22 2007

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Jan. 20 ) Sheikh Sharif Ahmad, head of the Somali Islamic Courts, is due to leave Kenya for Sana'a as part of Yemen's mediation efforts to resolve conflicts between the Islamic Courts and the interim Somali government, numerous media outlets reported late last week.

Media said the Somali Islamic Courts reached an agreement with the United States, Italy, Ethiopia and Yemen, with the aim of involving the Islamic Courts in the interim government. The agreement is the fruit of a series of talks between numerous Islamic Courts leaders and the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a.

Under the agreement, the Islamic Courts mustn't interfere in the case of Sheikh Hassan Daher Awais' band, who belongs to the Islamic Courts Union, as Awais is accused by the U.S. Administration of having links with Al-Qaeda.

The head of the Islamic Courts still must sign the agreement in its final form, since he's believed to be the ultimate decision maker, a matter which the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a hasn't confirmed.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh considers Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia a legal act because it was made upon request by the interim Somali government.

In an interview last week with United Arab Emirates newspapers Al-Bayaan and Emarat Al-Youm, Saleh stated, “The Ethiopians may fear any presence of Islamic elements in Ujadin region, fearing that the Islamic tide will affect the region. I heard from Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that Ethiopian troops will withdraw from Somalia.”

Saleh noted that it was decided to host Islamic Courts leaders, except those internationally-wanted elements believed to have connections with the Al-Qaeda network.

“Islamic Courts' Foreign Relations Officer Ibrahim Adow and other Islamic Courts elements are holding talks with U.S. officials and the Americans are due to hold talks with the interim Somali government,” he added.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi earlier revealed that several Somali Islamic Courts leaders are holding talks in Yemen with the aim of ending their nation's crisis.

“Many Islamic Courts leaders have arrived in Yemen for talks with the interim Somali government to resolve the crisis,” Al-Qirbi told Al-Khaleej newspaper. He hoped Islamic Courts leaders will bear in mind that tackling their nation's tragic situation necessitates talk and harmony between conflicting factions without violence, as peaceful dialogue is the only way for Somalis to be rid of the crisis.

He emphasized that the Yemeni government is concerned about Somalia's instability, pointing out that Yemen suffers the consequences of the war-ravaged nation's instability, mainly by increasing the number of refugees to Yemen.

According to Al-Qirbi, the role Yemen is playing along with the international community aims to bring together the Somali Islamic Courts and the interim government. “The Yemeni government stresses the necessity of continuing peaceful dialogue and avoiding violence to resolve the crisis,” he continued.

After concluding her tour of Africa, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer met President Saleh earlier this month in Aden. Both sides talked about the Somali situation, discussing various means to support its interim government and the necessity of deploying African peacekeepers in Somalia to restore security and confront the Islamic Courts.

Yemeni media sources say nearly 50 Islamic Courts members came to Yemen after the Ethiopian intervention, while the interim Somali government fears Awais, who chairs the Islamic Courts' Shoura Council, may be in Yemen or Kenya.

Somali officials affirm that they won't stop hunting Awais, who is wanted by both the U.S. and the international community, admitting that they face difficulties arresting him because he's married to the sister of Somali Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Mohammed Hussein Aidid.

According to such officials, Somali President Abdullah Yousef still respects Awais, who helped release him after his previous detainment by Islamic Union Forces.