afrol News, 24 October - Djibouti officials are foreshadowing improved relations with the breakaway state of Somaliland. Although recognition of Somaliland so far is out of the question, the common border, which has been closed for half a year, might soon be re-opened.
- Improved relations between Djibouti and the self-declared independent state of Somaliland, northwestern Somalia, would depend on the extent to which Somaliland implemented bilateral agreements reached, a senior Djibouti official told the UN media IRIN on Tuesday.
Conflicts between Djibouti and Somaliland emerged after Djibouti hosted last year's Somali peace talks, aiming at the re-establishment of a united Somali government. Somaliland, which unliterary had declared its independence nearly ten years ago, boycotted the talks, as the proposals presented would include it giving up independence. The talks led to the establishment of the internationally recognised Transitional National Government (TNG) in Mogadishu, also claiming to represent Somaliland.
Since then, Somaliland loudly has been accusing Djibouti of interfering in Somalia's internal affairs, branding it as a hostile nation. Somaliland media regularly have attacked Djibouti politics, in Djibouti views threatening the internal stability of the country, which roughly is populated by the same ethnic groups as its neighbour.
The Djibouti response was closing the common border in April this year, further isolating the non-recognised Somaliland government in Hargeysa and hurting its economy. Trade with the Arab Peninsula being down due to animal diseases in Somaliland, the country's only really open border during the last half year has been with Ethiopia, which has directed much of its overseas trade through Somaliland ports.
First steps towards improving Djibouti-Somaliland relations were taken by Somaliland earlier this month, when a delegation led by its foreign minister visited Djibouti and entered into direct negotiations.
An agreement was reached to improve relations, and a first step would be to end hostile propaganda on both side of the border. Djibouti officials are now waiting to see whether Somaliland follows up the intentions of the agreement before re-opening the border.
It is however stressed in Djibouti that a possible re-opening of the border does not mean that Djibouti recognises Somaliland as an autonomous state. Djibouti "will continue to support the Transitional National Government and Somali unity in general, and will not compromise on this," the official told IRIN.
While Djibouti relations seem to be improving without the longed for first recognition by one country, Somaliland leaders now seek to play their cards right in the ongoing US-lead worldwide campaign against terrorism.
As Somalia more often is mentioned as a country hosting terrorists, mostly due to the Mogadishu government's inability to gain control over its territory, calm Somaliland might prove a cornerstone in possible US action against suspected terrorists in Somalia. After a year "in power", the Mogadishu government has proven unable to create a unified state, even less controlling its subjects and territory, making stable Somaliland ever more attractive for possible recognition.
Sources: Press reports and afrol archives