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Turkiye mediating in Somalia-Ethiopia talks on port deal

 

 

July 1, 2024 at 1:10 pm

 

Turkiye is mediating in talks between Somalia and Ethiopia over a port deal that Addis Ababa signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland earlier this year, according to four officials familiar with the situation, Reuters has reported.

The negotiations are the latest attempt to mend diplomatic ties between the east African neighbours, whose relationship soured in January when Ethiopia agreed to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline from Somaliland, in exchange for recognition of its independence. Mogadishu called the agreement illegal and retaliated by expelling the Ethiopian ambassador and threatening to throw out thousands of Ethiopian troops stationed in the country helping in the battle against Islamist insurgents.

Spokespeople for the Somali government, Turkiye’s foreign ministry and Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, government and intelligence service did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

A spokesperson for Somaliland, which has struggled to gain international recognition despite governing itself and enjoying comparative peace and stability since declaring independence in 1991, said it was not involved in the talks.

The goal of the negotiations is unclear, and expectations of a resolution are low, said two of the officials. “Despite rumours that Somalia has softened its stance on refusing to engage in dialogue until Ethiopia withdraws the [agreement], it seems unlikely,” said one. “I don’t see a way forward, and I don’t expect much will come from these talks.”

Turkiye has become a close ally of the Somali government since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first visited Mogadishu in 2011, training its security forces and supplying development assistance. The two governments signed a defence pact in February under which Ankara will provide maritime security support to Somalia to help the East African country defend its territorial waters.

The Turkish government has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkiye. In return, it has secured a foothold in Africa on a key global shipping route.

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