wpid-0131-African-Union-summit-disunity-displayfull600-1.jpg19 March 2014 ? The United Nations envoy for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has welcomed progress made by the national army and the African Union peacekeeping mission in regaining control of key towns from Al Shabaab insurgents.

In a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Mr. Kay congratulated the Somali National Army (SNA) and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on their efforts in south-central Somalia.

He added that the UN will continue support the joint operations, and stressed the importance of ensuring that international humanitarian law and human rights are fully respected during these operations.

The SNA and AMISOM have been pursuing a renewed offensive against Al Shabaab insurgents, who in 2011 were forced to retreat from the capital, Mogadishu.

In a briefing to the Security Council last week, Mr. Kay, the Secretary-General?s Special Representative for Somalia, noted that the new offensive is ?the most significant and geographically extensive military advance? since AMISOM was created in 2007.

Noting that fighting has affected civilian populations, the envoy said today that the UN and international partners have begun addressing humanitarian needs where access is possible and needs are assessed.

?Somalis living in areas now under Government control should quickly receive what they need: better security and justice, services such as health and education and a decent livelihood.?

He welcomed contributions made by international partners to the Government?s efforts to ensure Somalis benefit from peace and stability, and called for more international support.

?This is a turning point in Somalia?s struggle to bring lasting peace to all its people. Its friends and partners need to act quickly and generously.?

He added that the UN is supporting the stabilization efforts, including by immediately making available $3 million from its Peacebuilding Fund, which provides financing to jump-start rebuilding projects in countries emerging from conflict.

After decades of factional fighting, new Somali national institutions emerged in 2012, as the country ended a transitional phase toward setting up a permanent, democratically-elected Government.

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