Somaliland president: Next tripartite talks to be held in November
6 October 2013 /HANİFE SEVDE KÖSE, İSTANBUL
Turkey holds regular direct talks between the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland, acting as a mediator to resolve the problematic issues between the two sides. Ankara hosted the first proximity talks between Somalia and Somaliland in mid-April in Ankara where Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and Silanyo came together for the first time. The tripartite meeting was attended by top Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at the request of the two parties on April 13.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman in İstanbul soon after the Somaliland president held talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday, Silanyo expressed optimism about the upcoming talks on Nov. 8-10 in Ankara.
The foreign minister of Somaliland, Dr. Mohamed Bihi Yonis, who was with Silanyo during the interview, said they were very glad that Turkey was using its energy and time to facilitate the dialogue between the two sides. “We are very keen on having talks with our own brothers,” said Yonis referring to Somalia.
Yonis added that they wanted to see proximity talks between their state and Somalia taking momentum in the near future, saying they are running out of time.
The first reconciliation talks in April were described as an “historic start” by Turkey and the two sides agreed on signing the “Ankara communiqué,” voicing their commitment to the continuation of dialogue during talks hosted by Turkey.
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. Somalia wants Somaliland to be part of a united country. However the territory, which has been a haven of relative peace amid the chaos and bloodshed in the country’s south, is seeking international recognition. The international community is urging the sides to find a negotiated solution.
Highlighting the “historical” and “longstanding” ties between Turkey and Somaliland, Silanyo said during their talks in Turkey since Tuesday they appealed to the Turkish community, government and business community to come and invest in Somaliland.
Silanyo first visited Turkey in mid-March to have talks with Turkish officials, including Davutoğlu, who pledged to increase aid effort 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. Silanyo’s first meeting with Erdoğan was on Wednesday, which was closed to press. Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan was also present at the talks.
Top officials from Somalia and Somaliland came together with Davutoğlu in early July in a continuation of the peace talks between the two sides that started in April.
Yonis said Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, accompanied by a delegation of investors and businessmen, is planning to visit Somaliland in November in an effort to boost relations with the autonomous region. He added that Erdoğan also promised to visit Somaliland as soon as the airport runway in the autonomous region’s capital Hargeisa is completed.
Elaborating on possible areas of cooperation with Turkey, Yonis said they discussed ways to collaborate on issues of oil, construction, water, energy, mining, fishing and health in talks with Turkish officials.
Somaliland has rich natural resources, including natural gas, petroleum and minerals and the autonomous region is expecting Turkish investors to invest in a variety of fields, said Yonis. In particular, Somaliland has a huge potential in the fishing industry, said Yonis, adding that it was one of the issues raised with Turkish officials.
Concerning security in the area, Yonis said Somaliland has been secure and stable, adding that the security is not an issue for investors. “We are very proud of our achievements when it comes to security. Somaliland is one of the most stable countries in the world, particularly Africa,” he said.
The Somaliland foreign minister also commented on the possibility of Turkish Foreign Ministry to open a bureau in Hargeisa, saying that Erdoğan is currently considering opening a consulate in the autonomous region’s capital city. He said details of this idea will be discussed during Bozdağ’s visit to Somaliland in November.
Besides increasing aid efforts to Somaliland, Ankara places great importance on the integrity of Somalia and pledges to continue its support for the reconciliation, stability, prosperity and development of Somalia.
In mid-January, Ankara also hosted the Somalia Core Group meeting, which aimed to discuss the rebuilding of the Somali army. Turkey is part of the Somalia Core Group and recently signed an agreement with Somalia on training, technical and scientific cooperation in the military field.