Somalia’s foreign minister said on Friday that Dubai state-owned port operator DP World should reconsider its contract with the breakaway region of Somaliland and work with federal authorities so Somalia’s sovereignty is not violated.
“We are asking DP World to reconsider these agreements, particularly the one in Berbera port since Somaliland is claiming to be a state independent from Somalia,” Ahmed Isse Awad, Somalia’s foreign minister, told Reuters in an interview.
He said DP World’s agreement to develop an economic zone and port in Somaliland’s Berbera “bypassed the legitimate authority” of Somalia, triggering “misunderstanding and disagreement” that remained unresolved.
A DP World spokesman told Reuters that construction in Somaliland and Puntland, another semi-autonomous region of Somalia where a Dubai state-owned company has a separate deal to manage a port, was on schedule and that work would start soon.
“Both Puntland and Somaliland have urged DP World to expedite construction,” the spokesman said. Somaliland and Puntland officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The comments come amid a diplomatic row between the volatile Horn of Africa nation and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Dubai government owns DP World.
Somalia and the UAE have separately said a UAE military training programme in Somalia has ended following the seizure of millions of dollars from a UAE plane at Mogadishu airport earlier this month.
The spat is related to the port issue but has escalated amid an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have strong trading links with and influence in Somalia, but that is offset by the sway of Qatar and its ally Turkey, one of Somalia’s biggest foreign investors.
Analysts have said the dispute in the Gulf that erupted last year between Qatar and Turkey on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden.