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Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 1 May 2007

14. What assessment she has made of the prospects for a resumption of peace talks in Somalia; and if she will make a statement. (134746)

I bought a new suit for the occasion, but nearly missed out on making a contribution.

We welcome the lull in fighting in Mogadishu in the last few days and hope that a lasting ceasefire can now prevail. We want a political process pursued that can deliver lasting peace and stability and allow for much-needed humanitarian relief. The Government’s annual development and humanitarian programmes provide £21 million for Somalia, and the UK has provided a further £3.5 million of humanitarian assistance following the fighting in recent months. We expect Somalia’s transitional federal Government to show leadership and commitment in reaching out to all parts of Somali society and to intensify their dialogue with the clans in Mogadishu.

I thank the Minister for that response. Does he agree that considerable concern is growing about the role of the Ethiopian troops, and particularly about some of their activities in and around Mogadishu, and does he agree that we ought to do all that we can to support a political, rather than a military, solution?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we have engaged in the way that we have done. In particular, we need a settlement that ensures that the Ethiopians leave the country, but in such a way that there is common agreement by all concerned not to return to the situation of the past few months, and the damage that it has done to the individual citizens of that country.