The top United Nations envoy for Somalia has called for calm and dialogue amid reports of clashes between security forces from 'Somaliland' and neighbouring Puntland.
"Our position is to try and reduce tensions [and] to increase dialogue very quickly between both sides, so that if there are misunderstandings, these are clarified," said the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, while in Hargeisa, the capital of 'Somaliland.'
"If there are genuine differences, then they have to be subject to immediate discussion," he added. "But resorting to military solutions and to violence is not the way to resolve these problems."
The UN envoy was speaking at a joint press encounter yesterday with 'Somaliland's' Foreign Minister, Saad Ali Shire, after having met with 'Somaliland's' President Muse Bihi Abdi - their first meeting since the latter was elected late last year.
Earlier this week, there were reports of clashes between security forces in the Sool region, part of a disputed area claimed by both 'Somaliland' and Puntland, located on the north-eastern tip of the Horn of Africa.
In their meeting, Mr. Keating and Mr. Bihi Abdi discussed the new government's priorities, as well as the latest security issues.
"I was very impressed by and grateful to the President for his commitment, borne from his many decades of personal experience, of the importance of finding peaceful solutions to problems, " he said, "and that a priority must be to try and prevent violence of any kind, whether in 'Somaliland,' or, indeed, between 'Somaliland' and others."
While in Hargeisa, the UN envoy also met with several cabinet ministers to discuss various topics, including education, health, security, the impact of drought and employment, and how the United Nations can best provide support in addressing humanitarian and development challenges in these areas. Similar meetings were subsequently held with civil society representatives.
Part of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) - which Mr. Keating also heads and which has an office in Hargeisa - is to support 'Somaliland' efforts towards a politically stable and democratic system that adheres to the principles of good governance.