Tuesday May 15, 2018
Qatar has pledged to continue support for the stability and sovereignty of Somalia amid heightened tensions between the East African country and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a party to the Saudi-led quartet of Doha’s boycotters.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who held talks Monday with visiting Somali President Mohammad Abdullahi, said the relationship between Doha and Mogadishu were based on “brotherhood and mutual respect.”
“Qatar will continue to support the unity, stability, sovereignty and well-being of the people of Somalia,” Sheikh Tamim said in a tweet following the meeting.
Earlier this month, a Qatari official told Reuters that Doha had provided $385 million in infrastructure, education and humanitarian aid to the Somali government.
The Monday meeting, which is the third in less than a year, comes at a particularly sensitive time when Mogadishu abandoned a military deal with Abu Dhabi and seized millions of dollars from an Emirati plane.
Last month, an Emirati plane was grounded in the African country for several hours after UAE officials refused to allow the search of suspicious luggage.
Emirati military trainers were held for hours at Bosaso International Airport in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, as they refused to allow security forces to check their suspiciously “heavy” luggage.
In an earlier incident, the Somali federal government had confiscated nearly 10 million dollars from a UAE Royal Jet at the Mogadishu International Airport.
Following the incident the UAE ended its military training program in Somalia, which started in 2014.
Tensions between Somalia and the UAE emerged in March after the Dubai-based DP World granted a 19-percent stake to Ethiopia in the Berbera port in breakaway Somaliland, which Somalia has not recognized as independent.
Under that deal, the UAE builds a military base in Berbera Port and trains the soldiers of the breakaway Somali region.
Mogadishu censured the agreement as a violation of international law.
Somalia’s internationally-backed government is reportedly planning to file a legal complaint against the UAE for setting up the military base.
Somaliland is located along the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait across from Yemen, where the UAE has been waging a devastating war as part of a Saudi-led coalition.
Relations between Somalia and the UAE first soured last year when Mogadishu refused to take sides with the Saudi regime and the UAE in their diplomatic dispute with Qatar.
Last June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed an economic embargo on the country, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a claim Doha strongly rejected.
Unlike several African countries which have broken ties with Qatar in support for the Saudi-led quartet, Somalia has refused to take sides in the dispute.