Friday May 7, 2021
By Abdi Sheikh
Somali deputy information minister Abdirahman Yusuf speaks during a news conference in Mogadishu
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia said on Thursday it was restoring diplomatic relations with neighbouring Kenya almost six months after severing ties, accusing Nairobi of meddling in politics.
Relations between the countries have also been tense over the ownership of potential oil and gas deposits, some of which lie off the coast of Jubbaland, one of Somalia's five semi-autonomous states.
"Now diplomatic relations are restored," deputy information minister Abdirahman Yusuf told a news conference in Mogadishu, saying the Gulf Arab state of Qatar had helped in the process.
Kenya's foreign ministry said that it took note of the Somali government's announcement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs "looks forward to further normalization of relations by the Somali authorities including with regard to trade, communication, transportation, people-to-people relations and cultural exchanges," it said in a statement. It also acknowledged the support of Qatar in particular in its efforts to normalize relations.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Reuters that Doha had agreed with the presidents of both countries that they would work on strengthening bilateral relations and bringing them "back on track".
The minister said his special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution, Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, had visited both countries.
"We believe that normalizing the relationship between the two neighbours is very important for political stability, especially in Somalia which is currently going through political turmoil ... and we look forward to the elections there," he said.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has directed the prime minister to prepare a parliamentary election. A delay led to a political crisis that raised fears al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents could exploit a security vacuum if state forces turn on each other.
State House in Nairobi tweeted that President Uhuru Kenyatta "received a special message" from Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani that was delivered by the foreign minister's special envoy.
In November, Somalia expelled Kenya's ambassador and recalled its own from Nairobi after accusing Kenya of interfering in the electoral process in Jubbaland.
In February 2019, Kenya recalled its ambassador after Mogadishu decided to auction oil and gas exploration blocks at the centre of their maritime rights dispute. The two countries had revived ties in November the same year.
The two are at present before the World Court to adjudicate the maritime boundary dispute.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Bernadette Baum/Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)