President of Somaliland seeks closer ties with UAE (The National)

President of Somaliland seeks closer ties with UAE

ABU DHABI // Senior government figures from Somaliland have held three days of talks in the UAE on investments, aid and security.

Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, the president of Somaliland, visits Abu Dhabi to build on business opportunities, aid and cooperation against piracy between the two countries yesterday. Sammy Dallal / The National

“We have met the leadership of the country and responsible leaders, and had fruitful discussions,” said Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, president of the self-declared autonomous north-western region of Somalia.

Somaliland declared independence in 1991, but has struggled for recognition from the international community, despite having a democratically elected government.

But its foreign minister, Dr Mohammed Abdullah Omar, said Somaliland was being engaged by countries and international organisations.

Mr Silanyo said he proposed UAE involvement in establishing two hospitals in the towns of Berbera and Burauo.

“We have made a request also for improvements to be made on the Burauo-Hargeisa road, which is known as Sheikh Zayed Road because the late president built it,” he said.

The Somaliland government has requested road-building equipment and the tools to dig water wells.

“There is no particular financial estimate for all these projects,” Mr Silanyo said.

Dr Omar said investment opportunities in the oil, gas and fisheries industries had been presented.

“We intend to invite a number of UAE business groups to visit and invest in Somaliland in oil and gas-exploration opportunities, and our fisheries industry,” he said.

Hussein Abdi Dualeh, Somaliland’s minister for mining, energy and water resources, said the autonomous region hoped to be drilling for oil by next year.

On security matters, Mr Silanyo said a joint security delegation was being set up between Somaliland and the UAE.

“We have an understanding to work together,” he said. “We are also fighting piracy quite well and a large number of the pirates are in jail.”

Security cooperation is on two fronts – antipiracy and counter-terrorism, according to Dr Omar.

“We are the safest part within the region but we are still surrounded by an area filled with extremists, terrorists, criminals and pirates,” he said.

“We look to share intelligence, information and notes on the subjects.”

The foreign minister added that, although the rate of pirate attacks has dropped drastically, complacency is not an option.

“This massive international presence [in the Gulf of Aden] cannot be sustained, therefore developing security across our own waters is what matters for the future,” he said, adding that the UAE’s efforts over the last two years had paid off.

The UAE has been aiding the development of Somaliland and Somalia, as well as helping the countries in the region to battle piracy.

“They have presented a framework for action and a platform to launch it through the events and meetings organised last year and the year before,” Dr Omar said.

 

Somalia has functioned without a strong central administration since the ousting of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

The collapse of his dictatorship led to civil war and clan conflict, which split the country into the regions of Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug.

Last year, the UAE orchestrated and hosted a historic meeting between the presidents of Somalia and Somaliland in Dubai – the first in 21 years.

The then president of Somalia’s transitional federal government, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, and Mr Silanyo signed a declaration that paved the way for future talks and cooperation between the nations.

Mr Silanyo said he hoped the Dubai meeting would be the first step towards such recognition.

But he said yesterday his country was still finding Somalia an obstacle.

“Somalia and Somaliland were part of a federation, and some people still find it hard to accept that this federation does not exist any more,” he said.

“We are looking for international recognition from Somalia, who are our brothers and neighbours but they still do not agree.”

amustafa@thenational.ae

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