Somalia: Govt Moves to Calm Diplomatic Tensions With Kenya

From left: Recalled Kenya's envoy to Somalia Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo and expelled Somali envoy to Kenya Mohamoud Ahmed Nur alias Tarzan.

The Somali government has moved to calm diplomatic tensions following Kenya's decision to recall its ambassador to Mogadishu and instruct Somalia's ambassador to leave Nairobi.

The two counties are embroiled in a maritime dispute.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, the Somali government said it has not offered any blocks in the disputed area to external bidders. Somalia says it has no plans to do so until the maritime dispute case between the countries is decided by the International Court (ICJ) of Justice in The Hague.

Somalia has also assured Kenya that it will not take any unilateral activities in the area before the court's judgement.

Kenya has called its Ambassador to Mogadishu Lucas Tumbo back to Nairobi for "urgent consultations" on Saturday. Kenya said the move is the consequence of the "most regretful and egregious decision" by the federal government to "auction off" oil and gas blocks in Kenya territory.

Kenya has also instructed the Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohamud Ahmed Nur to depart to Somalia for "consultation". The statement posted by Kenya on its Twitter account incorrectly gave Somali Ambassador's name as "Mohammed Muhamud Nur".

The Somali government said it "regrets" Kenya's decision to instruct the Ambassador to leave Kenya "without prior consultation" with the government of Somalia.

The Somalia-Kenya maritime boundary dispute is before the ICJ. Somalia filed a complaint in August 2014 after all diplomatic negotiations were "exhausted" according to the government. The disputed area is estimated to be 100,000 square kilometers.

Kenya had filed a preliminary objection challenging the ICJ's jurisdiction over the case but in February 2017 the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction. The court has since asked the countries to submit written arguments and counter arguments before a day is set for the hearing of the case.

Kenya has several thousand troops serving in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to fight against al-Shabab.

The Somali government says it's committed to working with Kenya to address issues facing both nations.

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