The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Saturday said it expected "full cooperation" with Somalia even as it expressed regret over the country's decision to expel the UN envoy over accusations of interference.
China, after studying a British-drafted statement overnight, presented amendments on Saturday to stress that the council respects Somalia's "sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity," diplomats said.
The Security Council released a unanimous statement after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy following his failure to persuade President Mohamed Abdullahi to reverse the expulsion of Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata on January 1.
Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government's arrest ofMukhtarRobow, a former militant of Al-Shabaab group who was blocked from running in a regional election.
Nicholas Haysom, special representative of the UN secretary-general for Somalia and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), briefs the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Somalia, at UN headquarters in New York, January 3, 2019.
The British-drafted statement expressed "regret" for the decision and expressed full support for the UN mission in Somalia. Council members reiterated "their expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the United Nations," it added.
Earlier on Friday, the council met behind closed doors to discuss a response to Somalia's decision but China asked for more time to consider the text, following which it suggested the necessary amendments, diplomats said.
The statement said 2019 will be a "critical year for Somalia" and called on its leaders "to work together to advance political and security reforms."
On Friday, Guterres' spokesman said he "deeply regrets" the decision to expel Haysom but that the UN chief nevertheless intends to appoint a new envoy.
Guterres spoke twice by phone with PresidentAbdullahito urge him to reverse the decision but the Somali president told him on Friday that Haysom would not be welcomed back, diplomats said.
Former Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow attends a news conference in Baidoa, Somalia, November 4, 2018.
Haysom, who took up the post of UN envoy in October, warned the council during a meeting on Thursday of a risk of conflict during elections in Somalia's federal states due to tensions with the central authorities.
The arrest of Robow could discourage other Al-Shabaab militants "who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path," the envoy said.
Somalia's ambassador to the UN Abukar Dahir Osman told the Security Council that the world body should not interfere in his country's national affairs, stressing that Haysom's backing for Robow was akin to rebranding a terrorist as an "ice cream salesperson."
Osman said the Somali people wanted to see “Somalia leading international support, not international support leading Somalia.”
"Somalia distinguishes between the institutions that we are part of and individual conduct that had adetrimental effect on our fragile nation,” he said.
Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira (on screen), a special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), briefs the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Somalia, at UN headquarters in New York, January 3, 2019.
Robow, who defected from the Al-Shabaab militant group in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.
The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on December 13-15 that were violently suppressed by Somalia's security forces, leaving at least 15 dead.
In a letter sent to the government, Haysom requested an investigation of the protest violence and information on the legal basis for arresting Robow.
Somali envoy Osman retorted saying former Al-Shabaab militants "cannot assume leadership positions without going through stringent established rehabilitation programs," adding that a terrorist should not be allowed to rebrand himself as an "ice cream salesperson."
The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions in the Horn of Africa nation, which were ruined by decades of civil war.