Rival factions of the Somali interim government based in Mogadishu have agreed to reconcile with the government based in Jowhar in a bid to end the rifts that have hampered efforts to restore a functional government.
Mohammed Ahmed, Somali government's deputy coordinator of Somalia affairs in Kenya said the faction leaders, among them ministers in the fractured government, had agreed to negotiations after a recent meeting in bullet-riddled capital Mogadishu that discussed ways of ending division in Somalia.
"We agreed to engage in a direct negotiations process with our counterparts in Jowhar," Ahmed quoted a statement issued by the Mogadishu faction on Wednesday.
"We urge our neighbor countries to play a positive and neutral role in bringing together the Transitional Federal Institutions ( TFIs) to restore the Somali government," the statement added.
Ahmed said the rival faction leaders fully accepted a proposal submitted by former military senior colonel, Barre Adan Shire ( Hirale) who controls much of Somalia's fertile land including the third largest city Kismayo.
Sources said the meeting was unanimous and was chaired by Parliamentary Speaker Sheriff Hassan Sheikh Adan.
"It was a unanimous decision to engage our colleagues in Jowhar and hold a face-to-face meeting without preconditions," a source who attended the meeting said.
He said that the face-to-face meeting would be held in Somalia, a demand the Jowhar-based group, headed by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi, had insisted on.
The Mogadishu group dropped their demand that the meeting be held outside Somalia under international mediation.
"We only ask that the international community to be present as observers to witness any agreement," he said.
Members of the fledgling government based in Jowhar, 90 km north of Mogadishu, reportedly welcomed the new development as a " step in the right direction."
"We have been calling for direct talks without preconditions for a long time. Now that our brothers in Mogadishu agree, we welcome it with open arms," Somali Information Minister Muhammad Abdi Hayir reportedly said.
The Horn of Africa nation has been deeply divided over where the seat of government should be in their country after their relocation from Nairobi in June this year.
President Yusuf, Prime Minister Gedi and their supporters maintain that Mogadishu must be secured before they can transfer the government to the city. The other group led by Speaker Adan insist that the government must be based at the capital Mogadishu.
There have been several attempts by the international community, including the UN, to broker an agreement between the two groups.
Two months ago, Francis Lonseny Fall, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, presented an "agenda for dialogue" to the interim leaders.
The new government, formed at peace talks in Kenya in 2004, is Somalia's 14th attempt to reinstate central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.