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Turkey acting as go-between with al-Shabaab, Mogadishu

Serkan Demirtaş
Hurriyet Daily News
March 09, 2012

Turkey is in talks with the extremist al-Shabaab organization, which controls Somalia’s southern parts, in a move to end the 2-decade-old civil war in Somalia, seen as the Turkish state’s protégé in need of comprehensive efforts to be rebuilt.

Turkey’s recently appointed ambassador to Somalia, former coordinator of Doctors Worldwide, Dr. Kani Torun, has been meeting with senior members of al-Shabaab for some time, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

At the outset, the meetings aimed at providing security for the Turkish humanitarian groups who flocked to the country after the government launched an unprecedented aid campaign to Somalia in early 2011. But the sources told the Daily News the meetings also helped to establish a channel between al-Shabaab and the central government to narrow differences on the future of the world’s poorest nation.

“There are serious problems with regard to security. They seem not to be solved in a short time period,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told a small group of reporters travelling with him to Somalia. “We have expressed our opinions on the establishment of the internal peace and comfort to our counterparts. We welcome positive developments in this regard,” he said without detailing what the positive developments were.

Al-Shabaab, designated as a terror organization by the United States and the United Kingdom, is fighting against Somali Transitional Federal Government and the African Union troops who have been deployed to Somalia to provide security for millions of Somalis. The group describes itself as waging jihad against enemies of Islam.

Following strong attacks by Kenyan and Ethiopian armies in southern Somalia, al-Shabaab lost control of some key cities and adopted guerilla tactics in countering the attacks of its adversaries.

Recently some reports in the local press claimed Turkey was trying to impose its own model of secularism to Somalia and the food distributed to the people was expired.

“The only reason why we are here is to fight against a humanitarian tragedy, to stop people dying of hunger. We have no objective of exporting a regime or imposing something,” Bozdağ said. “We believe some circles are trying to muddy the waters.”

A Turkish official said reports claiming expired food was distributed to the people saddened all Turkish NGOs and government members. “Then we have very seriously investigated the claims. What we have found was the mentioned food was coming from Iran.”

Training Somali troops

Alongside substantial help in the health and education fields, Bozdağ said Turkey was assessing a Somali demand for training of its security forces in Turkey. “They have expressed their demand in this field. We need to have an agreement first on this. It’s not very much likely in the short run.”

Agency to open in Somaliland

As part of Turkey’s policy to expand its aid campaign to Somalia’s different parts, Bozdağ said a development agency is planned to open in Somaliland in the near future. Somaliland is a self-declared unrecognized state, which is being considered as an autonomous region of Somalia. Sources said this move does not mean the recognition of the regional government and aims at extending hands to all regions of Somalia.

Somalis’ fate changed

Having visited Somalia four times in the last eight months, Bozdağ said “Turkey’s entrance into this country did change the fate of Somali people. Even the United Nations came after us. Now they are in Mogadishu, and we are sure many other countries will also be present in Somalia very soon.“Aug. 19, the day when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan landed in Mogadishu, is a turning point for this country,” Bozdağ said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

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