Last ditch talks to avert Ethiopian-Somali war

Gus Selassie for Global Insight Daily Analysis via BBC Monitoring, Dec. 5:

Ethiopia and Somali Islamists in Last-Ditch Talks to Avert All-Out War
Despite the recent war of words and the deep-rooted animosity that appears to exist between the two sides, representatives of the Ethiopian government and Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) have held unofficial talks, it has been confirmed. According to Ethiopian sources, the country’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Tekeda Alemu, met Islamist officials in neighbouring Djibouti in a last-ditch effort aimed at averting an all-out war between the two sides, with the talks ending inconclusively.

It is believed that the Islamists, who have used Ethiopia’s alleged presence in Somalia as a popular rallying cause to gain the support of ordinary Somalis, have insisted on the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from their territory before they can hold formal talks. Significance: Ethiopia is currently embroiled in the ongoing crisis in Somalia because of its association with the country’s weak but internationally recognised Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Although the Addis Ababa government continues to claim that its support for the TFG and resulting involvement in the ongoing stand-off between the interim government and the UIC is to prevent the internationally recognised government from being toppled illegally, Ethiopia’s involvement is now becoming the main source of the crisis rather than part of the solution. Citing the UIC’s continued posturing and its repeated declaration of a jihad, or holy war, against his country, Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi has sought and gained parliamentary support recently to take the “appropriate military action” against the Islamists, suggesting that an all-out war between the two sides was imminent (see Somalia: 24 November 2006: and 4 December 2006: ). Although the latest dialogue attempt between the sides is encouraging, the refusal of either side to compromise is likely to prove a major obstacle to prevent certain conflict.

See our last post on Horn of Africa crisis.