Somalia's top diplomat has urged the U.N. Security Council to deploy an international peacekeeping force to his country, saying the political environment is improving and he hopes it will lead to an improved security situation. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Last month in Djibouti, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the oppositon Alliance for the Reliberation for Somalia (ARS), initialed a peace and reconciliation agreement that Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama says he hopes both parties will sign within the next two weeks in Saudi Arabia.
But one factor that could jeopardize the peace deal is a change in leadership of the opposition. A hardline Islamist has taken over as head of Somalia's exiled opposition movement, pushing out a relative moderate who participated in the Djibouti talks.
Jama says his government is fully committed to implementing its obligations under the Djibouti agreement, and it expects the ARS to meet their commitments as well. He said this would open the way to a climate conducive to the United Nations sending troops to Somalia - leading to the exit of Ethiopian forces that have been in Somalia at the government's invitation since 2006.
"In this context, we hope that we are all in agreement that if the Security Council authorizes the deployment of a United Nations international stabilization force without delay, we will have ample reasons to believe that the 17-year-old agony of the Somali people will draw to an end," he said.
The Somali foreign minister says he has had encouraging talks with U.N. member states about their contributing troops to such a force, and that at the recent AU summit in Sharm El Sheikh many states came forward with offers to help, but he would not say who had shown a willingness to participate.
U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah told the council that it is time for them to take "bold, decisive and fast action."
"For their part, the Somalis have started working together and today the ball is in the court of the international community," he said. "We need to act quickly."
He said there are three main options for Somalia. One would be to change the role of the current African Union force, known as AMISOM, to a U.N. force and improve its capabilities. The second option, would be to deploy an international stabilization force; and the third option would be for the Security Council to authorize a U.N. peacekeeping force.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad questioned whether the political process could move forward in the face of the deteriorating security and humanitarian situations. He said the council needs to look at the whole range of options and has asked the U.N. secretariat to provide them with some planning ideas by August 15.
"And then based on that planning and looking at the options, there can be a serious discussion," Khalilzad said. "So far the discussions in the council are a bit theoretical, because we do not have concrete plans to evaluate, to respond, to judge."
He said he thinks council members are coming around to the idea that they need to do something, but they have not yet decided what the best course of action should be.
Somalia has been without a real government for nearly 20 years. The U.N. says today more than three million Somalis live in exile, and nearly a million more are displaced as the violence continues.