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Somalia allows Turkey to defend its maritime waters in 'historic' deal

Somalia allows Turkey to defend its maritime waters in 'historic' deal

 


Somalia's cabinet on Wednesday formally approved a defense and economic cooperation agreement with Turkey, authorizing Ankara to build, train and equip Somalia's navy and defend its territorial waters amid tensions with Ethiopia.

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre described the agreement during the cabinet meeting as a historic agreement that would become a long-term legacy for the Somali nation.

The deal will end fear of terrorism, pirates, illegal fishing, poisoning, abuse and threats from abroad, he said, according to local reports.

A Somali source close to the deal told Middle East Eye that the agreement effectively authorizes the Turkish navy to defend Somali maritime waters if necessary for the next ten years.

A Turkish defense official declined to comment, saying the contents of the deal would be made public at the same time as it was ratified by the Turkish parliament and president. We cannot reveal the details because there is still a long way to go to be ratified, the official added.

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The Turkish navy has already been operating off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden as part of a UN mission to combat piracy and armed robbery since 2009.

Somali Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur signed the framework agreement on defense and economic cooperation on February 8 in Ankara, during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler.

During our meetings, which further strengthened our relations, we reiterated the importance we attach to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia, Güler said, according to a statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry.

Garowe Online, a Somali news site, reported that Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was expected to deliver a speech on the deal and provide details on Wednesday during a closed-door meeting of both houses of parliament.

Protecting Somali waters

Turkey has trained Somali soldiers in recent years to aid the latter's attempts to build a national army. Ankara has a major military base in Mogadishu and a Turkish company manages its airport.

Ethiopia signed a deal last month that grants it naval and commercial access to ports along the Somalilands coast, in exchange for recognizing the independence of the breakaway regions.

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Somalia strongly condemned this decision and Turkey supported Mogadishu in this matter.

Ankara also maintains close ties with Ethiopia, arming it with military drones which prevented the capture of its capital by Tigrayan forces in 2022.

The agreement stipulates that Turkey will receive 30 percent of revenues from the Somali exclusive economic zone, known for its abundant marine resources, Garowe Online said.

The agreement places emphasis on combating illegal fishing in Somali waters, with Turkey pledging to build and equip the Somali navy to take on this responsibility.

The agreement, once agreed by both sides, is expected to come into force within 24 hours of ratification and places responsibility on Turkey to protect Somali waters in the event of maritime violations.

The UN Security Council in December lifted an arms embargo against the Somali government that had been in place for more than 30 years, strengthening the government's mandate.

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