The Somali Transitional Government of National Unity said yesterday?s cessation of hostilities agreement with the exiled opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia is a first step by Somalis to reclaim the stability and security of their country. Minister of information Ahmed Abdisalam Adan said the agreement also lays the foundation for increased international involvement in Somalia.

Among other provisions, the deal, brokered Monday in Djibouti by the United Nations, calls for a termination of all acts of armed confrontation, beginning in 30 days and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within 120 days, but only after UN peacekeepers are deployed. 

From Djibouti?s capital, Adan told VOA Monday?s agreement focused mainly on security.

?This portion of the agreement was basically committing both sides to seize all hostile acts, cessation of hostilities. Secondly, it was committing both sides to make sure that Somalis get the aid that they need. More importantly, this is an agreement that requested the deployment of UN troops in the country in order to facilitate the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in the country,? he said.

The deal, brokered by the United Nations, calls for a termination of all acts of armed confrontation, beginning in 30 days and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within 120 days.

Adan said Ethiopia has consistently said that it was ready to withdraw its forces from Somalia after the deployment of UN peacekeepers.

?As you know, for some time the Ethiopian leadership has been publicly stating that Ethiopian troops are ready and willing to leave the country once a sufficient numbers of troops, particularly UN forces are ready to replace the Ethiopians. So this agreement clearly offers an opportunity for the Somali people to get troops from the UN while at the same time facilitating Ethiopian troops in accordance with the decision already taken by the Ethiopian government to withdraw from Somalia,? Adan said.

More than a year after the African Union approved sending 8,000 peacekeepers to Somalia, only a few countries, including Uganda and Burundi have sent a fraction of the proposed number of peacekeepers. Also, only a fraction of the mission?s budget has been contributed.

Adan said this time around, the intentions and focus of the international community on Somalia are different.

?As you are aware at the start of this round of discussions, the ambassadors of the 16 members of the Security Council came here to Djibouti and they committed themselves that the situation is so dire, so difficult that it cannot be left unattended. And I?m sure that once we implement the agreement that we signed this afternoon, that the international community, particularly the United States and the Security Council members from Europe and other countries will be in the position to assist us move forward. So obviously the world has come to the conclusion that Somalia cannot be left the way it is,? Adan said.

He rejected any notion that by signing an agreement with the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, a group that has been described by some countries as a terrorist group, the Somali Transitional Government was admitting its failure to suppress the Islamic insurgents.

Instead Adan said the Somali government has for the past several months chosen to find a political solution to the country?s problems.

?We look at this agreement as a step forward of reclaiming our stability and our security because at the end of the day, Somalis have to reconcile among themselves before they can attract the attention of the world and ask the world for assistance. And this is a good start in that regard,? Adan said.