26 April 2013

Ethiopia Retracts Remarks On Urgent Somalia Pull-Out

Addis Ababa — The Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs said that remarks made by the country's prime minister over the pull-out of troops from Somalia was misunderstood.

The ministry has refuted a report by Reuters saying that Ethiopia is urgently withdrawing its troops from war-torn Somalia.

While addressing parliament on Tuesday, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the country is under preparing to fully withdraw its forces soon.

The premier blamed the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) over Ethiopia's delayed withdrawal, accusing it of failing to keep its promise to replace Ethiopian forces.

He said it was almost a year since AMISOM pledge to replace Ethiopian troops.

Last month, Ethiopian troops made a sudden pull-out from Hudur, the capital of Bakool province in protest over AMISOM's delay to replace the Ethiopian forces in parts of the country now under AU control.

As a result of the withdrawal al-Shabaab fighters were subsequently able to retake control of the town.

Clarifying the premier's remarks, foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti denied Ethiopia is immediately pulling out from Somalia.

"[The prime minister] said [the] Ethiopian defence force has to be transferred to those areas where there is need for more stability. He has never said we are going to withdraw", Mufti said.

The ministry said Ethiopia is anxious to end its military intervention in Somalia as soon as Somalian forces and AMISOM take over from Ethiopian forces.

It further said the main issue for Ethiopia is "to accelerate our complete withdrawal towards our border".

Speaking to VOA, AMISOM spokesperson Eloi Yao, said that the mission has not received any formal statement from Ethiopia regarding its withdrawal.

Addis Ababa has called on Somalia and AMISOM to speed up their replacement of Ethiopian forces.

Ethiopia re-entered its forces into Somalia in 2011 to assist the weak Somalian government and AU forces in their battle against al-Qaeda-allied militants from al-Shabaab, which had been in control in many parts of the country.

Following the deployment of Ethiopian troops in Somalia many key towns were liberated from al-Shabaab with the East African nation seeing improved peace and stability.

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