Mogadishu(Mogadishu24)-On the 1st of July, coinciding with Somalia’s 64th Independence Anniversary, a crucial round of talks between Somalia and Ethiopia took place in Ankara, Turkey. Mediated by Turkey, these discussions aimed to address the growing tensions and strained diplomatic ties between the two nations. The outcomes of these talks, however, reveal much about the current state of Somali foreign policy and the intricate dynamics at play in the Horn of Africa.

The official statements following the talks were notably different in tone and content. Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its firm stance, emphasizing that Ethiopia must withdraw from the contentious Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) before any substantial negotiations can proceed. In contrast, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted the productive and forward-looking nature of the exchanges, commending both parties for their commitment to finding a peaceful resolution. This discrepancy raises important questions about the efficacy and direction of Somalia’s foreign policy.

Historically, the relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia has been complex, marked by periods of cooperation and tension. Since Ethiopia’s military withdrawal from Somalia in 2009, successive Somali administrations have navigated this relationship with varying degrees of success. The administration of President Farmajo, in particular, resisted what it perceived as Ethiopia’s attempts to influence and destabilize Somali politics, leading to heightened tensions.

The MoU signed in January 2024 between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland further exacerbated these tensions. This agreement, which followed a series of high-level visits and bilateral agreements, has strained relations and brought the need for diplomatic resolution to the forefront.

The recent talks in Ankara, while symbolically significant, yielded minimal tangible outcomes. The primary result was an agreement to reconvene on the 2nd of September. This prompts a critical reflection on the purpose and potential effectiveness of future meetings if Somalia’s stance remains unchanged and Ethiopia continues to uphold the MoU.

“Turkey’s mediation underscores the intricate regional dynamics at play. Somalia’s strategic decisions moving forward should involve a broader coalition of neighboring countries to enhance the mediation process”, Ali Halane, Journalist and Former Correspondent at BBC Arabic.

Pressure from international allies, including the United States and the European Union, likely influenced Somalia’s decision to participate in these talks. These allies, interested in de-escalating regional tensions and fostering diplomatic engagement, may have encouraged Somalia to take a more flexible approach. However, the Somali government’s handling of these talks, marked by mixed signals and internal inconsistencies, highlights a need for a more cohesive and strategic diplomatic approach.

The removal of an official tweet by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing the talks indicates potential miscommunication or internal conflict within the Somali government. Furthermore, the delegation sent to Ankara, comprising both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the State Minister of Foreign Affairs alongside other top officials, suggests a lack of strategic coordination.

“The discrepancies in official statements and the removal of the Ministry’s tweet suggest an urgent need for better communication and coordination within the Somali government. A more integrated approach is essential for effective diplomacy“,Abdinur Mohamed, former Chief of Staff, Director of Communications and Spokesperson at Villa Somalia Hassan.

Effective diplomacy requires a unified and consistent stance. The Somali government’s apparent struggles with coherence in its foreign policy actions risk undermining its diplomatic efforts. Rumors of internal disagreements within the delegation further underscore the need for a more integrated approach.   

Turkey’s role as a mediator underscores the complexity of regional politics. With significant investments and strategic partnerships in both Somalia and Ethiopia, Turkey possesses the leverage to facilitate these talks effectively. However, Somalia must also consider its regional alliances and the potential benefits of involving other neighboring countries in the mediation process.

 “The Ankara talks highlighted the critical need for Somalia to develop a more consistent and unified foreign policy approach. Without internal cohesion, diplomatic efforts are bound to face significant challenges”,Mohammed Hirmoge, a Former Head of Strategic Communications at Villa Somalia and Former CGTN Africa Correspondent for the Horn of Africa.

Moving forward, the Somali government must refine its diplomatic strategy to ensure clearer communication and more cohesive foreign policy actions. Consistency and strategic clarity are crucial for navigating the complex regional dynamics and achieving meaningful diplomatic resolutions.

The Ankara talks have illuminated both the potential and the challenges of diplomatic engagement between Somalia and Ethiopia. As future discussions approach, Somalia must strive for a more coordinated and strategic approach to its foreign policy. Only through such efforts can it hope to effectively address the underlying issues and foster a more stable and cooperative regional environment.

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