- Somaliland has accepted an invitation from the Turkish government to participate in talks with Somalia in Istanbul on 13 April within the framework agreed in June 2012 at Chevening (UK), and subsequently signed in Dubai on 28 June 2012 at Heads of State level. The Dialogue is of potential benefit to Somaliland. In the short term, it could enable the parties to reach bilateral agreements in areas of cooperation such as security and trade, which will benefit the people in both countries. And in the long term, it would provide an international diplomatic process through which Somaliland could obtain its status as a recognised state.
Meanwhile, the process will give Somaliland a means of injecting its views into regional and international discussions on issues which directly affect Somaliland. The government is convinced that participating in the Dialogue is necessary to promote Somaliland's national interests.
On 13 April, the Turkish government will convene a meeting in Istanbul between delegations from Somaliland and Somalia led by President Ahmed Silanyo and President Hassan Sheikh, respectively. The event will represent a resumption of the Dialogue initiated by Somaliland and the TFG at Chevening House in the UK on 21 June 2012. The Dialogue is supported by the wider international community and originated from a decision taken by the London Conference on Somalia in February 2012, which "recognized the need for the international community to support any dialogue that Somaliland and the TFG or its replacement may agree to establish in order to clarify their future relations."
The inclusion of this paragraph in the final communiqué was at Somaliland's suggestion. Engaging in the Somaliland-Somalia Dialogue serves several functions. First, Somaliland's security and prosperity require friendly and cooperative relations with all its neighbours, including Somalia. Despite their differences, Somaliland and Somalia have many shared interests.
After more than twenty years of severed relations, the Dialogue will allow Somaliland and Somalia to negotiate on a range of practical measures which can potentially benefit both sides. These could include matters such as cooperating in the fight against terrorism, piracy, serious crime, illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste at sea; and encouraging international aid, trade and investment.
Reaching agreements on these practical issues will also help rebuild trust between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, which could make it easier to clarify Somaliland's relationship with Somalia by negotiation. Furthermore, the Dialogue could provide a much-needed, internationally accepted diplomatic process through which Somaliland could secure Mogadishu's endorsement of Somaliland's independent status.
Such endorsement would make it easier for the international community to recognize Somaliland. And there is an international consensus supporting this process. At a minimum, engaging in the Dialogue will show the international community that Somaliland is willing to talk to Somalia about its position. But Somaliland will continue to pursue its search for recognition. It is ultimately up to the people of Somaliland to decide their future.
While recognition remains on the table, the Dialogue would provide Somaliland with a mechanism to influence regional and international discussion which could potentially impact Somaliland's development, security, stability, and territorial integrity. The lifting of the UN arms embargo, AMISOM's displacement of al-Shabaab northwards, the claim in the Somali draft constitution to Somaliland, the possible declaration of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and the distribution of UN assistance represent only some of the issues in which Somaliland and Somalia's interests are intertwined. The Dialogue will provide a peaceful means for Somaliland and Somalia to address these issues directly and on equal footing.
In sum, the Somaliland-Somalia Dialogue has the potential to usher in a period of trust- building and cooperation that could lay the foundations for an agreement over future relations between the two countries. While caution and vigilance are necessary to ensure that the Dialogue serves the best interests of the people of Somaliland, our country enjoys a strong record of governance and democracy and must not shy away from asserting its influence. Somaliland must have the courage to go out into the world and express its views and needs using the diplomatic tools available to it. The Dialogue process represents an historic opportunity for Somaliland to do that.
The government is therefore convinced that participating in the Dialogue is necessary to promote Somaliland's national interests and to keep Somaliland on course for recognition as an independent state
Mohamed A Omar
(Minister of Foreign Affairs Republic of Somaliland).