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Remarks at Nairobi Iftar Dinner
John Yates, Special Envoy to Somalia

September 14, 2008

Good evening and welcome again.  Peace be with you all.  Salaam Aleikum.    

Tonight’s dinner marks the second time we’ve been privileged to share an Iftar with our Somali friends, and to join with them in observing the holy month of Ramadan here in Nairobi.  We’re grateful to Ambassador Ranneberger for hosting us this evening, and thank our Kenyan friends for their company.
Our goal is to be able to continue this tradition in Somalia, working with you and your compatriots to establish the conditions which will permit such a felicitous possibility.
As many of you know, due to the conflict in your homeland, I and my colleques covering Somalia for the United States Government are based at our Embassy here in Nairobi. Our engagement in this endeavor has increased exponentially -- in the past two years we have gone from one Somalia watcher in Nairobi to now a team of almost ten people.  We believe our engagement is making a real difference in supporting your quest for peace and reconciliation, and we thank those of you with us tonight for your partnership in our diplomatic engagement with Somalia.  The people of Somalia still have a lot of hard work ahead to achieve the peace and security they so rightly deserve, but the United States will continue to assist you in marking this challenge a reality.

Tonight’s Iftar, like every night during the holy month of Ramadan, is devoted to worship, contemplation, charity, and fellowship.  As you know, Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Koran to the Prophet Mohammed, and encourages observers to engage in reflection, generosity, and compassion – important aspects of Islam.  In fact, those tenets are the basis of many of the world’s religions and, if applied throughout the year, can help to foster the political reconciliation I mentioned earlier.

It is true that the relationship between the United States and some of the Muslims world is sometimes strained,  Much of that tension is preventable with simple dialogues among ourselves, whatever our faith.  This evening’s Iftar is another opportunity for discussion among people of differing faiths, and a chance to realize the common values we all share.

Again, I thank Ambassador Ranneberger for his hospitality.  I thank you all for attending, and I look forward to seeing you again at next year’s Iftar—maybe in Mogadishu?

Welcome all – soodhowaada.  Ramadhan Kareem!