DUBAI // Somaliland’s new minister of foreign affairs has met UAE ministers and expatriates to discuss progress in his troubled homeland.
Mohammed Behi Younis was Somalia’s top international diplomat and the architect of the world’s largest humanitarian relief operation in Darfur until he took up his new position six weeks ago.
He left his post as the assistant secretary general of the United Nations after more than 40 years and part of his new remit saw him speak to expatriates in the UAE from Somaliland, a self-declared autonomous region of the East African country that seeks independence.
Mr Younis also met the Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Military and Security Affairs, Faris Al Mazrouei, on Friday ahead of his appearance at the third Dubai International Counter Piracy Conference tomorrow and Thursday.
“We had a very impressive talk on the current state of affairs,” Mr Younis said. “This is my first visit within my new mandate and we discussed developing more trade ties between our two countries.”
Somaliland has a long-established trade and commercial relations with the UAE.
“We discussed with Mr Al Mazrouei, energy, oil, infrastructure and water projects in Somaliland that were pledged and to be implemented,” Mr Younis said.
“We have businessmen who operate financial exchanges, cargo services import and so many more based out of the UAE.”
Ahead of the anti-piracy conference, Mr Younis said he hoped for stability and peace between Somaliland and Somalia.
“In the last conference, we engaged for the first time in 20 years in talks and they are progressing quite well, despite the insistence of our brothers in the south on unity when what we want to achieve is our independence,” he said.
Somaliland, regarded as the most stable and developed region in the area, was the site of a 2011 UN-operated prison facility for pirates. Up to 70 convicted Somali pirates were transferred to the jail in Hargeisa that year, many from the Seychelles.
Regional experts believe Somaliland’s offer to accept the pirates was part of the breakaway region’s efforts to win diplomatic and international recognition.
The offer was readily accepted since most countries are unwilling to accept the pirates and Somaliland was seen as a more secure place than Somalia to hold them.