President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta
GONZALO FUENTES / POOL / AFP
- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the bilateral talks offered an opportunity to “open a new page for our people”.
- The Somali premier hailed the meeting as “the beginning of a strong and deep relationship”.
- Ties between the countries were severed on 15 December after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland.
Mogadishu and Nairobi agreed to “reset” their frosty relations Tuesday, following talks between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
The meeting signalled a thaw between the Horn of Africa neighbours after often tense relations between the two countries.
Somalia has objected to what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi in turn has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.
The visit came days after Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo banned government institutions or officials from entering into agreements with foreign countries or entities until elections, already delayed, are held.
Although no fresh initiatives were announced during the meeting, a statement released by Kenyatta’s office said the bilateral talks offered an opportunity to “open a new page for our people”.
“It’s time to improve trade and sort out immigration issues to allow increased people-to-people interactions,” the statement quoted Kenyatta as saying to Roble.
The Somali premier hailed the meeting as “the beginning of a strong and deep relationship”, based on a mutual focus on “lasting stability and peaceful coexistence”, the statement said.
Ties between the countries were severed on 15 December after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the Somalia government.
Mogadishu has also long resented what it believes is Nairobi’s support for the semi-autonomous Somali state of Jubaland, which Kenya sees a buffer between it and Al-Shabaab militants over the border.
Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM – an African Union military operation fighting the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.
Somalia indicated its intention to restore ties with Kenya in May, but detente stalled just a few days later after Nairobi banned flights between the capitals without explanation.
The flights have since resumed, while the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu officially reopened on Sunday when the minister for foreign affairs, Raychelle Omamov, visited the Somali capital.
The two countries are also engaged in a long-running dispute over a potentially resource-rich stretch of the Indian Ocean, which they both claim.
That row escalated in early 2019 after Somalia decided to auction off oil and gas blocks in the disputed maritime area, prompting Kenya to recall its ambassador.
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