MOGADISHU - International envoys have called on Somali leaders to pursue dialogue to resolve political differences ahead of regional elections in South West State.

The envoys from the United Nations, EU, Africa Union, U.S., Britain, Germany and France, among other nations, expressed concern over recent clashes in the regional state that led to the arrest of al-Shabab co-founder Mukhtar Robow. “We extend our deepest condolences for the death of the South West State assembly member and others who have died in the violence in Baidoa. We deplore all violence and any other acts that could exacerbate the humanitarian situation,” they said in a joint statement issued on Friday night. Robow was arrested and handed over to the Somali National Security Intelligence Agency (NISA) on Thursday after being flown from Baidoa, about 270 km outside capital, Mogadishu. The ex-al-Shabab leader was one of the candidates vying for presidency in Somalia’s South West regional elections scheduled for Dec. 19. His arrest sparked demonstrations between pro-Robow and Somali security forces on Thursday and Friday in Baidoa town. A parliamentarian and a young boy were among more than 10 people killed in the ongoing clashes. In a joint statement, the international partners underscored there should be unified support for the agreed framework governing the elections, and urged all parties to respect the integrity of the electoral process. “We encourage constructive dialogue to resolve political differences and address other challenges in order to advance the political and economic progress of the country,” said the partners, also including those from Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Italy.

The electoral commission in Baidoa, South West State has confirmed it planned to carry out the elections despite the arrest of Robow.