- Somaliland Foreign Minister Dr. Mohamed Omar has voiced optimism ahead of proximity talks between Somaliland and Somalia that is set to be hosted by Turkey on Saturday, calling for increased cooperation on the issues of security and the fight against terrorism between the two governments.
“First of all, I hope the two sides will express their commitment to the continuation of the talks,” Omar voiced his expectation from the talks during an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman on Friday, as he underlined the significance of meeting with the newly elected government of Somalia formally for the first time since September’s elections.
Somaliland unilaterally declared its independence as a de facto sovereign state in 1991 after a coalition of clan-based armed opposition groups ousted the nation's long-standing military government. The area is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia.
Omar also said the two governments were expected to take some further steps towards resolving some of the conflicts and issues that have been the main difference between the two sides.
“I hope that the two sides [Somaliland and Somalia governments] will not stand on the way of each one’s development plans and security and the two governments will cooperate more actively on the issues of mutual interest. I also expect the two sides to decide on tangible and practical cooperation on the ground which will allow both sides to fight much more effectively against terrorism and people who are going to harm regional security,” added Omar as he said solving security problem could be one way to come out of the disagreements between the two sides.
A statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry released on Friday said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo were due to visit Turkey on Saturday. The statement added that Turkey will continue to lend its support to finding a peaceful solution to the problems between Somalia and Somaliland through dialogue.
''Turkey might be best place to bring leaders of Somaliland and Somalia closer'
The Somaliland foreign minister said he was hopeful about Turkey’s part in the talks, adding that the Turkish government could play a crucial in improving relations between Somaliland and Somalia due to Turkey’s historical link with the people of Somaliland.
“I think that it will also be very helpful due to the fact that Turkey is a very neutral country supporting both the people Somaliland and Somalia in their own development. Therefore, Turkey might be the best place in terms of bringing the two sides closer and helping the two sides to solve their differences,” added Omar.
Silanyo visited Turkey in mid-March to have talks with Turkish officials, including Davutoğlu, who pledged to increase aid efforts to Somaliland. During his visit, Silanyo was also scheduled to meet with Erdoğan; however, the meeting had to be canceled due to Erdoğan's poor health.
Commenting on the development between Turkish and Somaliland ties following Silanyo’s visit last month, he said the president’s visit brought along high ranking visits from Turkey to Somaliland since then. “One of top leaders of Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) has recently paid a visit to Somaliland with huge assistance. There are also plans on the ground for a number of other development opportunities in Somaliland in cooperation with the Turkish government,” he added.
Turkish Foreign Ministry office to be opened in Somaliland
Omar also announced that the Turkish foreign ministry officials and officials from Somaliland were working on opening an office of Turkish Foreign Ministry in the autonomous region’s capital city Hargeisa. He added that he expected the office to be opened in the upcoming months.
“A key element [to improve bilateral relations] is to have a clear point of contact between Turkey and Somaliland,” said Omar underlining the importance of the Turkish office and added,” Once there is a Turkish office in Somaliland and a Somaliland’s office in Turkey, those two offices will help the coordination of the bilateral relations in the areas of economy, development and investment.
The Somaliland foreign minister also stated that a Turkish Airline from İstanbul to Hargeisa was expected to be launched once the Hargeisa airport is completed in June. He said Istanbul-Hargeisa flight has the potential to take relations to a different stage.
'Security of Somaliland allows Turkish investors to come and invest in'
“Somaliland has rich natural resources, including natural gas, petroleum and minerals as well. It is a key area where we are looking for Turkish investors. We also have huge potential in fishing industry and that is another area we are looking for Turkish investors,” noted Omar.
He added that currently Turkish companies were exploring petroleum in the areas, yet investors to fishing industry were also expected from Turkey. Omar added that Somaliland has huge fishing deposits in its seas which are underutilized. “I think that a key area where Turkish investors and Turkish technology can help us explore those resources and export them to international markets,” he added.
When asked about the situation of security in the area, Omar said Somaliland has been secure and stable for quite a long time. Noting that there are a high numbers of international companies in Somaliland now, Omar said the security of Somaliland allows for Turkish investors to come in and invest in.