Turkey has an invitation from Somalia to explore for oil off the troubled African country’s shores, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Now, there is an offer from Somalia. They are saying: ‘There is oil in our seas. You are carrying out these [exploring] operations with Libya, but you can also do that here.’ This is very important to us,” Erdogan told reporters on his flight back to Turkey on Monday.
Erdogan said Turkey would take steps in response to the Somalian proposal, without elaborating further.
There was no immediate comment from the Somalian government.
On Sunday, Erdogan attended a summit in Berlin, where world leaders discussed a solution to bring about an end to fighting between Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA).
In November, Turkey signed a controversial bilateral memorandum with Libya’s GNA in which the two agreed that the two countries’ exclusive economic zone stretches from Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shore to Libya’s northeast coast in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The two plan to carry out joint natural gas drilling operations in the disputed waters where tension is already high among the regional powers due to Turkey’s recent gas and oil exploration off the coast of Cyprus – which has been split between its Greek and Turkish populations ever since ethnic tensions resulted in Turkey’s 1974 invasion.
Greece and Cyprus reject the deal between Turkey and Libya as being contrary to international law, arguing that Turkey and Libya share no maritime border.
Ankara is also a party to the Libyan conflict with its military support for the GNA against Russia-backed LNA.
Similar to the Libyan case, Turkey has also been providing Somalia with military support since 2011, when a deadly famine took place in the country. Following the incident, Erdogan had paid a historic visit to Somalia.
Turkey built a military base in the capital Mogadishu to train local forces and supplied tens of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa.
The international airport and the seaport in Somalia are currently run by Turkish companies, while Turkish engineers have been helping build roads there.
In the last two months, two separate deadly bombing attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab targeted Turkish companies in the country, with several Turks being wounded.
According to some analysts, Turkey’s Erdogan eyes to increase Turkish influence in the Horn of Africa to counter Gulf rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Being aware of the economic and political importance of Somalia, Turkey has invested $100 million in the country, with an estimated bilateral trade between the two being around $250 million.
In October, Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed, the Somalian minister responsible for petroleum and mineral resources, declared that the country was opening up 15 blocks for oil companies to bid on for exploration and production licenses in its seas.
Further, the Somalian parliament passed a new petroleum law last week to attract foreign investment in the energy sector.
The country has a high potential for hydrocarbon exploration in its shores, according to Seismic Geo, a seismic data processing company.