Foreign Ministers from seven countries in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, have met in the Somali capital for the first time in nearly 25 years. The trade grouping's talks focused on political and security progress made in Somalia, as well as the anticipated 2016 elections.
The high level session of in the Somali capital Mogadishu brought together top diplomats from the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the IGAD delegation and thanked the regional bloc for picking Mogadishu as this years host capital. "This IGAD council ministerial session is significant because it's the first time IGAD member states at this level are discussing Somalia's political matters inside Somalia," he said.
Security was stepped up in most parts of the city prior and during the meeting.
President Mohamud thanked IGAD member states for assisting in the stabilization of Somalia. Four members of the regional bloc have already contributed troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM.
The 22,000 strong AU force is mandated with assisting the federal government in its war against the terror group al-Shabab.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, who is the chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers said that the IGAD regional bloc and the international community have both witnessed the progress made by Somalia in the past couple of years and reiterated their commitment to the country's security.
“And this is not just recognized by us, by IGAD as neighboring countries, but also by the international community. And what’s important now is to continue the march towards sustainable peace and development," states Tedros.
The top U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ambassador Nicholas Kay, said Mogadishu's successful hosting of the 53rd IGAD summit is a clear indication of progress.
“It shows that peace and security is returning to Somalia. It shows that Somalia is returning to the community of nations. It is now able to operate as a full member of IGAD and host IGAD council of ministers," adds Kay.
Somali President Mohamud also thanked the international community and paid a special tribute to IGAD. "Following the positive developments over the past two years, achieved with the support of our international partners and in particular IGAD member states, we have to continue working together," he says, "towards the implementation of the agenda on the federal government of Somalia's political way forward."
An IGAD summit is expected to be held in Mogadishu later in the year.