Turkey targets Somalia for oil drilling

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Turkey targets Somalia for oil drilling

  • Ankara has been increasing its footprint in the country since 2011

ANKARA: Turkey is to drill for oil off the shores of Somalia after an invitation from the Horn of Africa nation to explore its seas, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. 

Somalia adopted a new petroleum law last week to attract further foreign investment in the energy field, and opened up 15 blocks for oil companies that are willing to explore the country’s hydrocarbon potential.

Turkey has been increasing its footprint in Somalia, especially since 2011 when it began providing the country with humanitarian aid to tackle a famine problem, and is also signing energy and resource deals with African countries.

It will start exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean this year after signing a maritime agreement with Libya, and has a deal with Niger to carry out mineral research and exploration activities.

“There is a proposal from Somalia,” Erdogan said on Monday. “They are saying: ‘There is oil in our seas. You are carrying out these operations with Libya, but you can also do them here.’ This is very significant for us.” Turkish engineers are carrying out infrastructure work in Somalia, but contractors are increasingly being targeted in terror attacks.

Local forces have been trained by Turkish officers at a military base that was built by Turkey in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Ibrahim Nassir, an Africa analyst from Ankara-based think tank Ankasam, said the Somali drilling offer might be payback for some of the reconstruction work and humanitarian aid. But he also suggested that Somalia might be using Turkey as a counterbalance against its regional rivals.

FASTFACT

Turkey has been increasing its footprint in Somalia, especially since 2011 when it began providing the country with humanitarian aid to tackle a famine problem, and is also signing energy and resource deals with African countries.

“The dispute over maritime territory in the Indian Ocean between Kenya and Somalia might result in security risks during drilling activities, and some armed groups may be used to prevent Ankara from proceeding with hydrocarbon exploitation,” he told Arab News.

Jędrzej Czerep, a senior analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said that Turkish oil extraction from Somalia could be presented as stealing national wealth.

“That would expose the Turks to greater risks both on the mainland and at sea where Al-Shabab is using motor ships. It could also divide the growing Somali diaspora in Istanbul or even radicalize some of its members,” he told Arab News.

An unstable political situation in Somalia could expose Turkey further, according to Atlantic Council senior associate Charles Ellinas. The third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit is set to be held in April in Turkey.

“It is not just the short term one should be worried about,” he told Arab News. “It is also the longer term. It takes something like 20 years to recover the investment from an oilfield. And during that period oil sales must be maintained. As things stand, with a very unstable political environment, upheavals in Somalia over such a period are quite likely.”


Iran virus cases top 40,000

Updated 30 March 2020

Iran virus cases top 40,000

TEHRAN: The number of declared coronavirus infections in Iran topped 40,000 Monday, as the government warned the outbreak could run for several more months and cost over 10,000 lives.
With the tally climbing, President Hassan Rouhani stood accused of failing to take prompt action by some of his political opponents.
The row came as a report by Iran's anti-coronavirus committee said the country may struggle with the outbreak until at least early summer.
Parviz Karami, who published the study on Instagram, said 11,000 people would die in case of "medium government intervention", including measures already taken by Iran.
Potential fatalities could drop to 7,700 with "maximum" intervention, such as banning movement inside cities and imposing quarantines, he said.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said Monday another 117 people had died from the virus over the past 24 hours and 3,186 new cases had been confirmed, raising the total to more than 41,000.
The death toll had reached 2,757.
According to Jahanpour, 13,911 of those hospitalised have recovered, while 3,511 are in critical condition.
The Islamic republic is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.
Iran has been scrambling to contain COVID-19's spread since it reported its first cases on February 19.
After weeks of refraining from imposing a lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided last Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
There is no official lockdown in Iran's cities although the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay at home to contain the spread of the virus.
Rouhani's political opponents argued Monday that it was all too little, too late.
"Coronavirus could have been more quickly contained" if measures such as "social distancing and limitations had been considered sooner", judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
Raisi, an ultra-conservative who ran against Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election, said that "time is of the essence".
The Iranian people had started "cooperating" only after authorities appeared to take the threat seriously, the official said.
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a veteran conservative who also stood against Rouhani, charged the administration has mismanaged the crisis.
He accused the authorities of "ignoring reality" and "unjustified optimism".
Rouhani had "worsened the crisis, then asked for help and put the blame on others", Ghalibaf tweeted.
The criticism came as Rouhani called on opponents to assist the government's efforts.
"This is not a time for gathering followers. This is not a time for political war," the president said.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Monday defended the measures adopted by the administration at a time that the country was under crippling US sanctions.
Washington withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, targeting the crucial oil and banking sectors, among others.
The administration had taken the necessary steps "once notified" of the COVID-19 outbreak, Rabiei told a news conference.
Its approach had been to try to ensure "that both physical distance be kept and people's everyday lives not be disturbed", he said.
"These two make sense together in an economy under sanctions."
According to Rabiei, the administration has endorsed a $6-billion rescue package to fend off the damage from the outbreak.
It included low-interest loans to businesses to prevent a spike in unemployment and cash handouts to impoverished Iranians.
Some of Iran's top hospitals are experimenting with stem cells to "balance immune system response" in infected patients and find a treatment, according to ISNA.
Iran also said Monday it has started mass production of "highly accurate" coronavirus testing kits that could produce results within 3 hours.