World News Somalia hands over its territorial waters to Turkey under newly signed defence deal

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Somalia has outsourced the defense of its territorial waters to Turkey, amidst rising tensions with Ethiopia.
21 February, 2024

Somalia’s Council of Ministers has ratified a new maritime agreement with Turkey which outsources the protection of Somalia’s territorial water for ten years, Somali news site Garowe Online reported on Wednesday.

The agreement grants Turkey "comprehensive authority" over the defence and management of Somalia’s maritime territory, the newspaper reported. Turkey will allegedly receive 30 percent of revenues from Somalia’s exclusive economic zone as payment for its maritime security services.

"While the details of the deal are unknown, the general content of it is no surprise for those following Turkish foreign policy in Africa, and particularly Somalia," Omer Ozkizilcik, a foreign policy and security analyst and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told The New Arab.

"Turkey is the closest ally of Somalia and Somalia needs help to secure its maritime borders. It was expected that the Turkish-Somalian cooperation on land and air would be extended to the waters as well."

Somalia and Turkey already have a strong partnership centred around economic and security interests.

"Ankara has a significant military base in Mogadishu, and a Turkish company manages its airport," Özkizilcik added. "Somalia is Turkey's gateway to Africa, and its policy in Africa began with Somalia. Turkey's success in Somalia has helped to gain the trust of other African states." 

In 2020, the Somalian government signed a 14-year contract with a Turkish company to rebuild the largest port in the country. 

The recent agreement has been presented by Somali authorities as a means to bolster maritime security in its territorial waters, which have long been riddled with ‘pirates’ that regularly attack fishing and commercial vessels.

It was also ratified in the context of heightened security tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia. These erupted in the wake of an agreement signed on New Year’s Day between the president of Ethiopia and the president of Somaliland, an unrecognized state that formally belongs to Somalia.

The agreement allows landlocked Ethiopia to build a large naval base in Somaliland, next to Somalia’s territorial waters. However, Somalia perceives the agreement as a threat since it could lead Ethiopia to formally recognize Somaliland as an independent state.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told reporters on Saturday during the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, that Ethiopia was “preparing the ground” for the annexation of Somaliland.

The deal between Turkey and Somalia was first signed by the two countries' defence ministers on February 8. It is due to enter into force within 24 hours of its ratification, according to Garowe Online.

Somalia is strategically situated on the Horn of Africa, the only natural strait linking the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Red Sea. It is on maritime routes to the Suez Canal, through which nearly 40 percent of global trade transits.

   *Somalia had already signed a deal in 2020 with a Turkish company to rebuild its Mogadishu port. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

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