Good morning and Happy New Year to all of you. I thank President Musa Bihi Abdi, his team, and the people of Somaliland for their warm welcome.
I last visited Hargeisa six months ago. I intend to continue to visit regularly for discussions with senior officials as well as non-governmental actors on developments in Somaliland. The United Nations maintains a full-time office in Hargeisa and implements a wide range of programmes to benefit the people of Somaliland.
During this visit, I was honoured to meet with President Bihi and members of his cabinet, civil society representatives, political party leaders, and international partners working in Somaliland.
I also visited a disability skills project and a wildlife rescue project. The United Nations welcomes initiatives aimed at building mutual confidence and fostering dialogue between Hargeisa and Mogadishu. We believe there are many areas in which greater cooperation could improve security, promote economic growth, and improve the lives of the people.
We encourage rapid progress to complete all necessary steps for Somaliland to hold parliamentary elections in 2020. We welcome the inter-party dialogue and urge implementation of the recent agreements that would enable preparations for elections to be held in 2020.
We call on Somaliland authorities to ensure respect for freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the ability of political parties to organise and function. Such political space is essential for a credible process.
We have noted positively recent efforts to address longstanding disputes in Sool and Sanaag — including the aftermath of the 2018 Tukaraq fighting — through dialogue and constructive approaches to ease tensions and reduce the risk of further conflict. We urge that these efforts be maintained and reinforced.