Turkish Defense Minister Guler (right) with his Somali counterpart Mohamed Nour during the signing of the defense and economic cooperation agreement (Getty)

Ankara -

After attention focused on the Middle East region due to the Houthis’ targeting of cargo ships passing through the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, in response to the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, the agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland - which no country has recognized for 30 years for its secession from Somalia - attracted attention. - More attention to this area.

According to the agreement, which was signed in early January, Ethiopia will have the opportunity to access the Red Sea with an area of ​​at least 20 kilometers of Somali territory.

Accordingly, many countries, including the United States, China, Britain, and France, expressed their concern about the possibility of worsening the situation in the Gulf of Aden, which is considered an important corridor for global trade and maritime navigation.

On February 8, Somali Defense Minister Abdelkader Mohamed Nur visited Ankara to sign a “framework agreement for defense and economic cooperation” with his Turkish counterpart, Yasar Guler.

On February 21, Somali Information Minister Dawud Aweys announced on the X website that “this agreement with Turkey was quickly approved in the government and parliament.”

All of these rapid developments clearly reveal the existence of very important developments in the Horn of Africa region, with tension clearly rising, and many experts, journalists and diplomats believe that the sudden signing of this important agreement between Turkey and Somalia is surprising and raises many questions.

The Somali Parliament on Wednesday approved a defense and economic agreement with Turkey after its government approved it (Anatolia)

Urgent instructions

Official sources in Ankara told Al Jazeera Net that "the request came from the government of Somalia, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally gave instructions to prepare the agreement, as he issued directives to the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs on the necessity of signing an urgent agreement for defense and economic cooperation with Somalia and the region, to avoid a state of chaos and a deterioration of the situation." The agreement was prepared within 10 days and subsequently signed.”

The head of the Center for African Strategic Studies in Istanbul, Mustafa Ife, pointed out that the most important reason for Ethiopia signing an agreement with Somaliland is its access to the sea, but this constitutes a serious problem for the Mogadishu government, because at the same time it is a serious step towards declaring the independence of Somaliland.

He explained that there are countries that "support the independence of Somaliland, such as Britain and countries close to it, and the UAE is also building a port there. Therefore, the Mogadishu government took a corresponding step by signing a defense agreement with Turkey, which enjoys its trust, to defend the integrity of its lands."

Security sources in Ankara refer not only to the agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, but also to other developments in the region and say, “If the Houthis completely close the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the crisis will worsen significantly, and the major countries may undertake a military reinforcement under the pretext of escalating tensions, and they may try to control Gulf of Aden and interfering in the region, including changing the borders on the map, and we do not rule out these possibilities.”

What does the agreement cover?

The “Framework Agreement on Defense and Economic Cooperation” concluded with Somalia extends for 10 years, and according to information available from Ankara, areas of cooperation include:

  • Introducing marine resources into the economy.

  • Planning and implementation of joint air, land and sea operations, in case there is a need for defense in relation to the use of these resources.

  • Building ships, establishing and operating ports and facilities, making the necessary legal arrangements for this, and unifying maritime navigation laws between the two countries.

  • Take unilateral and joint measures to combat all types of threats in sovereign maritime areas, such as “terrorism”, piracy, plunder, illegal fishing and smuggling.

  • Building unilateral and joint facilities and establishing security areas.

  • Providing training, technical and equipment support to the Somali army.

  • Establishing and managing coastal security facilities.

  • Developing and modernizing naval power.

  • Preventing marine pollution.

The companies that will work in all these fields will obtain approval from Turkey, and Somali airspace and its security areas will be completely opened to Ankara.

After the framework agreement, the details will be clarified through sub-protocols.

Somali President Sheikh Mahmoud: The agreement does not include any hostile purpose towards Ethiopia or any country (Anatolia)

The agreement and the region

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said, in his answer to journalists’ questions after Parliament approved the agreement, “We will establish a joint naval force, and our Turkish brothers will protect our seas for 10 years within the framework of this agreement, and after 10 years of cooperation, we will have a naval force to protect our seas, and no The agreement includes any hostile intent towards Ethiopia or any other country.”

Under the agreement, Turkey will work to protect approximately 3,000 kilometers of the Somali coast, from Kenya to Djibouti, using Turkish warships and soldiers. It is not yet clear whether this protection will take place in the Gulf of Aden and the Somaliland region, where the situation will be precisely determined following the signing of the protocols. Subsidiary after the framework agreement.

Although Turkey does not officially recognize Somaliland, it maintains good relations with it, and in February it also signed a military cooperation agreement with Djibouti, in addition to a military financial cooperation agreement and a protocol for applying cash aid.

Thus, Ankara began to play important roles in the Horn of Africa region, which is currently considered a serious crisis area.

The former Turkish ambassador to Chad and Senegal and one of the most prominent African experts in Turkey, Dr.

Ahmed Kafash said, “The agreement signed with Somalia will have important effects in the region,” adding, “On both sides of the Gulf of Aden there are Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia. The United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Israel have a great influence in the Horn of Africa region, and they have military bases in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti.”

“Now, Turkey is coming as a military force to Somalia, and will likely protect the coastal waters in the Gulf of Aden using warships,” Kafash says. “Of course, this will lead to a change in the balance. I do not think that this agreement was signed only because of the cooperation between Ethiopia and Somaliland,” Kafash says. “But because the Horn of Africa region is the most important shipping corridor in the world, and all countries are interested in it, so more important developments may occur.”

Why Türkiye?

The diplomat explained the reasons why no other country could sign this agreement with Somalia, saying, “For many years, Somalia suffered from devastating civil wars that led to the collapse of governmental authority. In these wars, many major countries and neighboring countries supported one of the parties to the conflict, which led to its exacerbation. On the other hand, Turkey has consistently affirmed its support for the unity of Somalia and the existence of the central government and opposed the declaration of independence of Somaliland.

The head of the Center for African Strategic Studies, Mustafa Ife, believes that the relationship between Turkey and Somalia “has historical depth, and the two countries share a common history of 381 years during the era of the Ottoman Empire. The value of the humanitarian, economic and social aid that Ankara provided to Mogadishu amounts to one billion dollars, and Turkey built airports and roads.” Hospitals and government buildings, and there are thousands of Somali students studying in Turkey, therefore, Turkey occupies a special place in the hearts of the people of Somalia.”

He added, "In 2013, the United Kingdom requested at a meeting in London to support the independence of Somaliland, but Turkey opposed that. As for the Somali government, it has always felt dissatisfied with the colonial attitudes of other countries towards natural wealth and marine resources, so I do not see it possible for Somalia to sign this agreement." With a country other than Turkey.

The Somali Defense Minister described the relations between the two countries, in an article he wrote for Anadolu Agency over the past few months, saying, “Although Turkey is considered a party far from the region, it has shown directly and through its policy in Somalia that it is capable of playing a constructive role in Africa in general.” , Especially East Africa, and with the development of relations between the two countries starting in 2011, Turkey has become an irreplaceable partner for Somalia.”

Turkey opened its embassy in Somalia in 1979, but was forced to close it in 1991 due to the civil war.

In 2011, Turkey opened its largest embassy in the world in the capital, Mogadishu, which contributed to accelerating the development of relations between the two countries.

So far, Turkey has provided aid worth one billion dollars free of charge, and the trade volume between the two countries currently stands at $280 million, and this number is expected to increase with the signing of recent agreements.

Source: Al Jazeera