Turkish diplomat: We expect momentum in relations with Somalia

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Turkish Ambassador to Somalia Mehmet Yilmaz said that they expect Ankara-Mogadishu relations to gain momentum after the recent presidential elections in the African country.

Yilmaz stressed that the efforts made by Turkey after the drought that struck Somalia in 2011 contributed to changing the image of the African country for the better.

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He added that Turkish-Somali cooperation has begun to bear fruit, especially in the areas of security, health, education and defense.

He stated that the volume of trade exchange between Turkey and Somalia exceeded $300 million, pointing to the increasing Turkish private sector investments in Somalia.

The Turkish ambassador said that the recent electoral process in Somalia was successfully completed and all the concerns related to it were removed.

He stated that he assured Somali President-elect Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud of Turkey’s continued support for the African country.

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He explained that Sheikh Mahmoud assured him during the meeting that followed the election day that the gates of Somalia are wide open to Turkey.

Yilmaz described Turkey’s relations with Somalia as “at a very good level.”

He continued, “We had good relations with all the presidents of Somalia, and we expect the relations to gain momentum after the recent elections and the victory of the new president.”

According to Yilmaz, the visit of Turkish Prime Minister – at the time – Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Somalia in 2011 marked a strong start for contemporary relations between Ankara and Mogadishu, especially since it coincided with the height of the drought in the African country.

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He added that many diplomatic missions and civil society organizations began thinking about returning after the mentioned visit to Erdogan, as well as their contribution to encouraging Somalis themselves to return to their country and homes that they left due to the dangers of drought.

In this context, Yilmaz stressed that it is not possible for a country to continue to stand on its own feet by relying on aid, indicating that Turkey is currently working to establish Somali capabilities in many areas, most notably education, health and security.

In this context, the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital in Mogadishu has graduated dozens of doctors, workers and experts in the health sector.

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On the other hand, the joint Turkish-Somali military base in Mogadishu has so far graduated 5,000 soldiers and 1,000 special operations personnel.

Later, Somali soldiers who graduated from the joint military base in Mogadishu continued their training in Turkey, according to Yilmaz.

On the educational level, the Turkish ambassador said that the Education Endowment of the Ministry of Education in his country played an important role in the upbringing of Somali students, through schools and scholarship programs allocated to Somali students.

Turkish government institutions such as the Red Crescent Society and the Presidency of Disaster and Emergency Management “AFAD” continue to provide humanitarian aid to Somalis in areas still suffering from drought, according to Yilmaz.

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The volume of trade exchange between Turkey and Somalia recently exceeded $300 million, while opportunities for economic cooperation between the two countries are increasing day after day in various fields.

In this context, Yilmaz said that the private sector in Turkey attaches great importance to investment in Somalia, pointing to the supervision of Turkish companies in operating many important facilities in Mogadishu, such as the airport and the port.

Ambassador Yilmaz believes that Turkey’s efforts are continuing to play the role of mediator between Somalia and Somaliland, which unilaterally declared its independence from Somalia.

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“We want to revive the mediation process between the two sides,” he added.

In 1991, “Somaliland”, located in the Horn of Africa, declared its secession from Somalia, which gained independence from Britain in 1960.

However, over the past years, “Somaliland” has not been officially recognized as a state.