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Turkey to build $6m Somali embassy in Ankara

Turkish media criticise the government for the project, but sources note the Somali government donated a far larger plot of land in 2015
Somalis celebrate the victory of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he won the run-off presidential election during the celebrations organised by the government in Mogadishu on 29 May 2023 (Hassan Ali Elmi/AFP)
Somalis celebrate the victory of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he won the run-off presidential election during celebrations in Mogadishu on 29 May 2023 (Hassan Ali Elmi/AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey is set to construct and donate an embassy building and a plot of land to Somalia at a cost estimated to reach over $6m, according to a deal submitted to the Turkish parliament on Monday.

As per the agreement signed between Turkey and Somalia in 2022, Ankara will make this contribution in exchange for a plot of land that the Somali government donated to Turkey in 2015.

The diplomatic mission Turkey built on that plot in Mogadishu was its largest worldwide, covering an area of more than 61,000 sqm at a cost of $65m.

In return, Somalia is getting 4,918 sqm of land in the Incek diplomatic site in Ankara.

Turkey plans to erect a 3,000 sqm embassy building on this site, and the agreement allows Somalia the right to sell the land and buildings in the future if it wishes.

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However, the Turkish parliament must ratify the deal before it can proceed.

'There is no saving from the love of Somalia'

- opposition newspaper Sozcu headline

The agreement has already sparked criticism in the Turkish media. Sozcu, the largest opposition daily newspaper, ran a front-page report on Tuesday titled: "There is no saving from the love of Somalia". 

The report highlighted the irony of the government constructing an embassy for Somalia while cutting funding for numerous domestic projects and services under austerity measures.

"They say there is austerity in the public sector, but they spend lavishly," the newspaper said. "The government, which could not find money to raise the salaries of millions of retirees and minimum-wage earners, donated [valuable land] in Ankara to Somalia."

Sozcu claimed the land is worth 200m Turkish lira ($6.5m). However, Turkish sources familiar with the project told Middle East Eye that the cost of both the building and the land would not exceed $6m, and it might even be lower.

One source emphasised that the land donated to Turkey in Somalia is 12 times more extensive and in a prime location in Mogadishu.

Somalia-Turkey bilateral relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has invested heavily in Somalia since 2011, providing more than $1bn in humanitarian aid in response to a deadly drought.

Turkey now has a significant military presence in Mogadishu, and Turkish firms operate the city's airport and port under agreements with the Somali government.

Turkey has trained over 16,000 Somali soldiers, equivalent to one-third of the Somali military, both in Turkey and at its Mogadishu base, known as Turksom. Turkish-supplied drones are also in operation against the al-Shabab armed group in Somalia.

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Ankara contributes approximately $30m annually to the Somali budget and, in 2020, paid a $3.4m IMF loan on behalf of Somalia.

In February, Turkey and Somalia signed a comprehensive naval defence deal, mandating that Turkey defend Somali waters against terrorism, piracy and external threats for the next decade.

In March, they signed an energy exploration and drilling deal targeting hydrocarbon reserves in Somalia's exclusive economic zone, which have remained undeveloped since the early 1990s. The deal also includes land exploration.

Relations between Turkey and Somalia came under scrutiny when Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's son was involved in a fatal car accident in Istanbul in November while using a vehicle with diplomatic number plates.

Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president's son, left the country before standing trial, sparking controversy and condemnation. He returned to Turkey in January, stood trial and received a 2.5-year prison sentence, which was subsequently converted into a $900 fine.

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