Somalia rebukes states for anti-Qatar move

Somalia’s government rebuked its three semi-autonomous regions yesterday for cutting ties with Qatar, saying it was determined to stay neutral in the Gulf nation’s dispute with other Arab states.

The region of Galmudug issued a statement on Wednesday saying it stood with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the regional row, following similar declarations last month by the regions of Puntland and Hirshabelle.

Somalia’s federal government responded by saying only it had the authority to speak on foreign affairs.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut political and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran – charges that Doha denies.

Somalia’s open stance is important for Qatar – Somalia’s airspace remains open for Qatar Airways.

The provinces’ decision could be due to the huge resources some Arab states have been pouring into the semi-autonomous regions, an observer said.

“(The Arab states) are trying to give more energy and emphasise more their relations with these regional governments, trying to pressure them to go against the federal government,” said Nairobi-based Somalia expert Ahmed Roble.

The choice by those regions to break from the federal government and reject Qatar, is unsurprising, Roble added.

Somalia has refused to take sides though Saudi Arabia is its top export partner, and the United Arab Emirates supplies the horn of Africa country with key imports from electronics to building materials.

Turkey, which has poured in more than $1bn in aid since President Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Somalia in 2011, has also significant influence over the federal government in Mogadishu.

“The cabinet reaffirms the federal government’s decision in June … that Somalia is neutral about the conflict of Gulf countries,” read a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.

The statement called on “the conflict be solved brotherly, peacefully and diplomatically.”
The efforts of the Saudi-led bloc to isolate Qatar have miserably failed with hardly any country of substance joining their boycott call.

Senegal decided to send its ambassador back to Doha in August, after being previously summoned for consultation in June.
The decision came after His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani held a telephone conversation with Senegalese President Macky Sall.

After sending its envoy back to Doha, an official statement from Dakar said Senegal is encouraging the continuation of the ongoing initiatives to reach a peaceful settlement of the crisis between Qatar and its neighbouring states.

There has been widespread resentment in Comoros after the country’s president decided to sever ties with Qatar, without taking his countrymen into confidence.

Comorian minister Fahmi Said Ibrahim and two of his ministerial colleagues were dismissed from their posts for their opposition to the government’s decision to cut ties with Qatar. Plans for public protests in capital Moroni were crushed with brutal force.

“Nothing explains in a convincing way the president’s decision to cut relations with Qatar,” the former Comorian minister had told Gulf Times during his friendly visit to Doha in August.