Kenya and Somalia have agreed to restore ties on Thursday after a months’ of diplomatic row over a maritime border dispute that led the two countries to halt issuance of visa on arrival.
Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohamed Farmajo agreed to restore visa issuance on arrival for each other’s citizens.
Kenya and Somalia are engaged in a dispute in a 100 square kilometres stretch in the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits.
Somalia has filed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against Kenya in 2014. Kenya has asked its neighbour to withdraw the case from the ICJ and resolve it through dialogue but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.
Tensions between the two east African countries escalated early this year when Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia and asked Somalia’s to leave the country. Nairobi accused Mogadishu of auctioning part of explorations blocks that were at the centre of dispute at an event in London in February.
Mogadishu denied Nairobi’s accusations and said the London conference was not aimed at auctioning any oil and gas blocks, but was meant to present the results of a seismic survey and showcase possible locations where oil can be extracted in the future.
In May, Kenya suspended direct flights between Mogadishu and Nairobi, and ordered all flights from Somalia to land at Wajir Airport in northeast of the country for security checks before heading to Nairobi, and denied Somali government officials entry into the country after arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. The officials were due to attend a European Union-sponsored cross-border conflict management summit.
On Thursday, following the meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Farmajo, Kenya’s foreign minister Monica Juma, said the Somali leader ‘expressed his confidence that the ICJ issue would be resolved in a mutually acceptable manner and not affect our bilateral relations.’
Villa Somalia denied Kenya’s claim, saying President Farmajo pointed to the fact that ‘the case at the ICJ should not affect the good relations between the two countries which have so many mutual interest.’
Ahmed Awad, Somalia’s foreign minister, said his government will not negotiate the maritime dispute and the ICJ will determine the case. The hearing of the case will be in June 2020 after the ICJ delayed it twice.
The restoration of the diplomatic relations between the two countries is an important step on the path toward the normalization of relations. It will boost security cooperation between the two and the fight against terrorism which would have scaled down if the dispute continued.
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