World leaders today pledged new help for Somalia to tackle terrorism and piracy.
But they also insisted that the troubled east African nation must quickly install a permanent government and threatened penalties against those who hamper political progress.
Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking after the one-day summit, said he hoped the conference would be a “turning point in achieving stability, greater security and greater prosperity for Somalia, for the region and for the world”.
Delegates at the talks, which counted representatives from 55 nations and international organisations, included Somalia’s United Nations-backed transitional government, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Somalia has had transitional administrations for the past seven years, but has not had a functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a long-time dictator and turned on each other, plunging the nation into chaos.
Mrs Clinton said the mandate of Somalia’s transitional government must end as planned in August, and warned travel bans and asset freezes could be imposed against those who attempt to hamper progress.
“This timetable will be stuck to. There will be no further extensions,” Mr Cameron told reporters following the conference.
In a communique, leaders hailed tentative signs of progress in Somalia – with piracy attacks in decline and the al Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab largely driven out of the capital Mogadishu.
Despite differences expressed over the role of al-Shabab in Somalia’s future, the conclusions call for “all those willing to reject violence to join” the country’s UN-led peace process.
Nations also agreed to “develop a defectors’ programme to support those who leave armed groups” and pledged to help improve efforts to tackle terrorism and to increase work to stop extremists travelling to and from Somalia.
In remarks to reporters, Mr Cameron said a coalition of countries were working to set up a new international taskforce intended to clamp down on ransom payments which have helped feed the piracy problem.
International forces already patrol the waters off the Somali coast, but Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said he was open to even more aggressive international involvement in his country’s fight against al-Shabab, which Mr Cameron warned could export terrorism to Europe and the US
Mr Ali said that he supported international air strikes against al Qaida militants in his country because they were “a global problem” that “needs to be addressed globally”.
He emphasised that he wanted the air strikes to be properly targeted.
“That’s what we support,” he said. “Not necessarily killing innocent lives.”