25 May 2019

Somalia, Turkey Strengthen Diplomatic Ties

Earlier in the week, , the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation received H.E. Amb. Ahmed Isse Awad at his office in the Ministry, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the Federal Republic of Somalia, H.E. Mr. Mehmet Yilmaz.

Ankara's approach in Somalia, underwritten by President Erdogan's appeal to Islamic solidarity and a more visible presence on the ground than traditional donors, has been widely lauded by Somalis.

For many, the tenor of its engagement, and the fewer strings attached, draw stark contrast to perceptions of failed Western interventions past. Most recently, Turkey appointed a special envoy for Somalia in 2018--a first in Turkish foreign policy--and tasked him to renew efforts, however unlikely in the near term, to reconcile Somalia's federal government and the breakaway region of Somaliland.

While officials in Ankara report that they have come to appreciate the soft power value of their investments in Somalia, Turkey's presence was not envisioned as a long-term strategic project at the outset. Its gradual assumption of a prominent role has been more learning experience than calculated power play, one accompanied by domestic debate about how its posture is perceived--not only in Somalia, but across the continent.

Turkish engagement in Somalia represents the most substantive outgrowth of Ankara's ambitious "Open to Africa" policy, which emerged in 2005 and aimed to boost Turkish diplomatic and commercial presence across the continent. The initiative has included dozens of new embassies, Turkish Airways routes and regular Turkey-Africa summits. Though notable progress has been made in the 14 years since (now 42 embassies and 54 airline destinations), investments have been relatively modest and diplomats acknowledge the next phase of the strategy is yet to be written.

During the meeting, Minister Awad praised Turkey's historic positions and its standing with the Somali people, who highly appreciate this prestigious role. He pointed out that there are common interests of the Somali -Turkish, imposed by the national feeling and the facts of history and geography, pointing out that Mogadishu and Ankara are united by common destiny, which distinguishes bilateral relations and the special ties between the two brotherly countries.

For his part, Ambassador Mehmet Yilmaz praised Turkey's relations with Somalia, stressing its importance in strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries and the two brotherly peoples. He said that these relations have witnessed remarkable development in recent years.

The ambassador indicated that Turkey will continue to support the Somali government and people, noting that his country's policy is quite firm to deal with Mogadishu as a brotherly ally for centuries.

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