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22 Feb, 2024 14:44

Somalia seals defense deal with Türkiye amid tensions with Ethiopia

Officials in the African nation believe the “historic” move will strengthen efforts to protect national sovereignty
Somalia seals defense deal with Türkiye amid tensions with Ethiopia

Somalia has signed a defense and economic agreement with Türkiye, which includes security guarantees for the East African nation’s maritime assets. Lawmakers in the capital, Mogadishu, voted 213 to 3 on Wednesday to approve the deal.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Somali Information Minister Daud Aweis described the ten-year pact as a “groundbreaking” move that will significantly strengthen the government’s efforts to protect national sovereignty.

“This marks a new era of hope for Somalia and serves as a stabilizing force for the Horn of Africa,” Aweis wrote.

The Somali-Turkish defense agreement comes amid tensions in the Horn of Africa, which have been triggered by a disputed port agreement between Ethiopia and breakaway Somaliland. Addis Ababa and Mogadishu have been at odds over the January 1 agreement, which involves Somaliland leasing coastland around the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden to Ethiopia for 50 years. This will allow the landlocked nation access to the Red Sea for commercial purposes as well as the construction of a marine force base.

The pact has angered Somalia, which has threatened to go to war to defend its lands because it considers Somaliland to be part of its territory despite the region gaining de facto independence in 1991. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has previously denied claims by Mogadishu, backed by Egypt, that his government is attempting to seize Somali lands. On February 6, Abiy declared that Addis Abiba is only interested in peace with its neighbors, dismissing widespread concerns about a potential war with Somalia.

However, on Saturday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told reporters that senior Ethiopian military officers were in Somaliland “preparing the ground” for annexation. Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation with more than 120 million people, has yet to respond to the latest accusations.

Somalian Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Qassim has called the agreement with Türkiye “timely”, saying “Somalia is in a difficult position” in dealing with al-Shabaab terrorist violence and an attack on its territorial integrity by a “neighboring country.”

As part of the Wednesday agreement, Ankara will provide the Somali navy with training and equipment to help its close ally protect its maritime borders from threats of terrorism, piracy, and “foreign interference.”

Türkiye’s cooperation with Somalia has grown significantly since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit as prime minister in 2011. In 2016, Ankara opened its largest embassy in Mogadishu and has also built its biggest overseas military facility there, to train the Somali national army and police force. The Turkish government has built educational and health facilities in the East African nation and provides scholarships for Somalis to study in Türkiye.