Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Somalia invited Turkey to explore for oil in its seas, private national broadcaster NTV reported.
Turkey has been a major source of aid to Somalia following a famine in 2011. Turkish engineers have helped building infrastructure in Somalia, businesses have invested in the country and Turkish officers have trained Somali soldiers as part of efforts to build up the country’s army.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, on his flight back from a Libya summit in Berlin, Erdogan said Turkey would take steps in line with the Somali invitation, but did not elaborate further.
“There is an offer from Somalia. 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 important for us,” Erdogan was cited as saying by NTV.
“Therefore, there will be steps that we will take in our operations there.”
In late December, a group of Turkish engineers was among those hit in a blast at a checkpoint in Mogadishu that killed at least 90 people. Last weekend, a car bombing wounded some 15 people, including Turkish contractors, in Afgoye.
In November, Turkey signed a maritime delimitation deal with Libya‘s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), in a move that infuriated Greece and Cyprus. Athens has been at odds with Ankara over offshore resources off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
Erdogan recently said that Turkey’s seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis would be deployed to explore for oil and gas off Libya. Other similar Turkish vessels are engaged in the same activity off Cyprus.
He also said that it was “no longer legally possible” to carry out any search and drilling activity or build a pipeline without Libya’s or Turkey’s approval in the zones subject to their agreement.
Earlier this month, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel signed a deal to construct a pipeline to ship gas to Europe, despite Turkey’s vehement opposition.
Erdogan had previously announced that Ankara was sending military forces to Libya to back the Tripoli-based GNA against renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli, which began last April but has since stalled on the outskirts of the capital.
Haftar’s forces are aligned with a rival administration based in eastern Libya and have in recent weeks made some military advances with help from Russian mercenaries, according to news reports. Russia has denied sending military contractors to Libya.
Both Turkey and Russia attended a summit in Berlin on Sunday, where a host of foreign powers agreed to end external interference in the Libyan conflict and work towards a ceasefire in the country.