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In fallout of Somaliland-Ethiopia deal, Turkey backs Somalia amid rivalries

Turkey's harsh reaction to the deal between Somaliland and Ethiopia reflects its close ties with Somalia, where it has a military base and commercial interests.
A group of singers perform Somali nationalistic songs during a demonstration in support of Somalia's government following the port deal signed between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland at Eng Yariisow Stadium in Mogadishu on January 3, 2024. Somalia vowed to defend its territory after a controversial Red Sea access deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway state of Somaliland that it branded as "aggression". (Photo by ABDISHUKRI HAYBE / AFP) (Photo by ABDISHUKRI HAYBE/AFP via Getty Images)
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Turkey has firmly thrown its support behind Somalia, the pillar of its quest for influence in Africa, as fresh tensions hit the turbulent Horn of Africa over a controversial deal between Ethiopia and Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland.

Ankara views the Jan. 1 memorandum of understanding, which could give landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea, as an affront to Somalia’s integrity. A Foreign Ministry statement read that Turkey had noted the deal with concern and affirmed the country's “commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia.” The disputes between Somalia and Somaliland should be resolved through direct negotiations, it stated.

The deal would grant Ethiopia commercial and military access to the Red Sea via Somaliland's port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden coast. In return, Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi expects Ethiopia to formally recognize his breakaway republic, which declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991 and has since operated autonomously with an administrative seat in Hargeisa. Should this happen, Ethiopia will become the first country to recognize Somaliland as an independent nation.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud dismissed the deal, saying that nothing would be given to Ethiopia, and Somali government officials thanked Turkey for its steadfast support. On Jan. 11, Somalia’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Omar Balad held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara.

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