Somaliland pitches 'huge' oil and gas potential during Taiwan trip

TAIPEI, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Somaliland has “huge” investment potential in untapped oil and gas reserves, the foreign minister of Somalia’s breakaway region told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, pitching investment opportunities on a high-profile visit.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence. The region has been mostly peaceful while Somalia has grappled with three decades of civil war.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory and likewise diplomatically isolated, and Somaliland set up representative offices in each other’s capitals in 2020.

Meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Somaliland Foreign Minister Esse Kayd said they welcomed “giant” Taiwanese companies to invest and trade with them.

“In the mining sector, Somaliland has huge potential for foreign investment, including hydrocarbon deposits, oil and gas, as well as coal, which can be easily explored,” he said.

“We are encouraging maximising trade and investment potential rather than aid dependency.”

His delegation, which includes the finance minister, will also meet executives from state-owned oil firm CPC, according to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.

Tsai said both Taiwan and Somaliland were like-minded democratic partners.

“Somaliland is now an important location in East Africa for Taiwan’s Africa project,” she added.

Taiwan has been all but driven out of Africa diplomatically by China in recent years, with only tiny eSwatini now maintaining full relations with the island.

China has ramped up pressure on countries not to engage with Taiwan as it seeks to assert its sovereignty claims.

Kayd, in an apparent swipe at China’s opposition to their Taiwan friendship, said Somaliland was a sovereign nation with a right to international relations.

“All coercive or threatening measures to deny such collaboration between international partners … do little to promote the peace and security that the region and the world require.”

Taiwan has been keen to show it is a selfless development partner for Somaliland and last month donated 150,000 doses of its domestically developed Medigen COVID-19 vaccine.

Strategically situated on the Horn of Africa, Somaliland borders Djibouti, where China maintains its first ever overseas military base.

Somaliland minister hails ‘milestone’ visit to Taiwan

Taipei (AFP) – Taiwan’s push to grow its presence on the world stage as China poaches its diplomatic allies saw Taipei roll out the red carpet on Wednesday to a new friend in a similar position – Somaliland.

Taiwan and Somaliland are both thriving, self-run democracies that remain mostly unrecognised by the wider world.

Finding common ground in their peculiar and isolated international status, the two have forged strong ties since swapping de facto embassies in 2020 – moves that sparked anger from both China and Somalia.

On Wednesday Somaliland foreign minister Essa Kayd Mohamoud described ties with Taiwan as “a special and historical relationship between two champions of democracies in Africa and Asia” during his government’s first cabinet-level visit.

“This historic visit marks an important milestone in the strong and cordial relationship between our two countries,” he said while meeting Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

“All coercive or threatening measures to deny such collaboration between international partners… do little to promote the peace and security that the region and the world require.”

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia during the 1991 civil war.

Although the move has remained unrecognised by the international community, the territory has thrived as a comparative beacon of stability.

Somalia blasted the swapping of offices between Taiwan and Somaliland as a “reckless attempt” to infringe on its sovereignty, while Beijing accused Taipei of separatism and “acting with desperation.”

China views Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day re-seize it, by force if needed.

Beijing’s sabre-rattling towards Taiwan has increased markedly under President Xi Jinping.

The two sides have for decades been engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war trying to woo the other’s allies with financial and other incentives.

Only 14 countries now diplomatically recognise Taiwan over China, after Nicaragua became the latest to switch sides in December.

However some nations maintain embassy equivalent trade offices in Taipei, and Taiwan has been increasingly embraced on the world stage by many western powers in response to Beijing’s more hostile rhetoric.

© 2022 AFP