UNITED NATIONS — The international community sought to mobilize both greater and more coherent support for Somalia's beleaguered government and for the African Union peacekeeping force there.
The meeting by the UN General Assembly in New York took place as Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab militants launched a fresh offensive in Mogadishu, sparking clashes that medics said killed at least 19 civilians.
UN special envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said the meeting on Somalia was an opportunity to hear Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed report on both progress and challenges carrying out the Djibouti Peace Agreement.
In a final statement, participants said divisions within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) needed to be overcome with less than one year left in the transitional period.
Transitional Federal Institutions also need to agree on post-transition arrangements in coordination with the international community and "reach out to more opposition groups that renounce violence," the statement said.
The idea is to expand the government's political base, it said.
Mahiga said the high-level talks offered "an opportunity to galvanize international support" for the government and to "mobilize resources" for the TFG and the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
In their statement, "participants called for increased financial support to AMISOM and stressed the importance of predictable, reliable and timely provision of resources to AMISOM," it said.
"They also called for more support for the development of the Somali security forces," it said.
"Participants noted that gains in the political and security areas needed to be supported by reconstruction activities to ensure long-term stability," it added.
African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping said the problem is not so much finding enough troops for 7,000-strong AMISOM but to raise enough funds to properly equip them and pay them decent wages.
Ping conceded that African peacekeepers had caused civilian casualties when Shebab fighters used markets or mosques to fire rockets at the force in a bid to draw fire on civilians.
"It is a strategy of the Al-Shebab," Ping said.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told AFP while attending the meeting that progress was being made.
"There is a political consensus for well-coordinated aid for Somalia," Frattini said.
"Members of the international community are convinced it is necessary to aid the Sharif government," he added.
"A coherent strategy is needed to help the African Union pay for the efforts of the countries that have provided soldiers and also to multiply financial efforts," Frattini said.
He said Italy pays the salaries of Somali police officers but added that the "European Union must do much more," adding he proposed European coordination centered around the United Nations.
"The UN secretary general's envoy (Mahiga) must coordinate all the efforts of the actors," Frattini said.
"I'm persuaded that we would be ready to place the Italian efforts under UN coordination," he said.
"We can't have training of troops by French troops in Djibouti, training of troops by the Italians in Kenya and training of troops by the European Union in Uganda," he added.
The participants included top officials from more than two dozen countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
They also represented organizations like the African Union, European Union, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Conference, and the United Nations.
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