Somali leader says tension with UAE ‘wind that will pass soon’

The leader of the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland has described the tension between his country and the United Arab Emirates as  “wind that will pass soon”

Speaking to reporters while on a trip to the UAE, Abdiwel Mohamed Ali Gas said a US$336 million port being developed in Puntland by the Gulf nation was what Somalia needed.

“We have the longest coast in Africa, we have minerals, we have oil,” he said.
“Why are our youth joining al-Shabab, why are they joining ISIS, who do they go into piracy? Because they have no hope,” Mr Ali said. “That is why the support of the UAE is so important.”

“Bringing investment is my duty, it is my responsibility, it is where the future development of Puntland lies,” he added.

DP World, the world’s fourth-largest port operator based in Dubai, said in 2016 it would invest more than $400m to develop the Berbera port.

The deal also included the government of Ethiopia, which took a 19 percent stake in the port.

Abu Dhabi agreed in March to train security forces in Somaliland – a region in northern Somalia seeking secession from the rest of the country.

 Mogadishu dismissed the agreement and called on the United Nations to take action.

Relations between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi have been frosty since June last year after Mogadishu resisted UAE and Saudi pressure to cut ties with Qatar following a dispute between the Gulf neighbours.

Somalia said it was neutral in the GCC diplomatic rift.UAE suspended operations at a hospital it ran in the Somali capital last week as tensions grew.

The Mogadishu-based Sheikh Zayed Hospital, which offered free treatment mainly to poor and displaced people, closed late on Monday.

The UAE also ended end its military training mission in the Horn of Africa country following reports that Somali officials had stopped a plane from the Gulf country from leaving an airport in the country’s Puntland region after Emirati military instructors on board refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.

The incident came just days after Somalia’s government seized several bags of moneycontaining almost $10m in cash from a Royal Jet plane that arrived at Mogadishu Airport from Abu Dhabi.

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