Even so, the U.S. has no immediate plans to re-open its embassy in the Somali capital Mogadishu, which has been beset by violence and deadly bombings spurred by the militant network al-Shabab. As recently as two weeks ago, a car bomb outside the national parliament building killed at least seven people, and a senior al-Shabab fighter threatened Americans in a radio broadcast in Somalia.
In a Tuesday speech, U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said the decision to name an ambassador to Somalia reflects what she called a sign of the deepening relations between Washington and Mogadishu and "the faith that better times are ahead."
She challenged Somalis to eschew generations-old clan rivalries and focus on building a united national government.
"None of us can make that choice for Somalis," Sherman told the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington. "But Somalis should know, if they choose to continue to come together, they will have enthusiastic and substantial international support."
Western diplomats began increasing ties with Mogadishu after Somali civil activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in September 2012. Washington formally recognized the new government four months later, and Britain opened an embassy in Mogadishu's fortified airport compound last spring.
In recent years, U.S. diplomats who focus on Somali issues have been based in neighboring Kenya, and travel to Mogadishu periodically to meet with government officials and civil society activists. Sherman estimated about a dozen U.S. diplomats are currently in the Kenyan capital Nairobi working on Somalia.
She did not say who would be nominated as the ambassador to Somalia, adding only that it would happen "soon."
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