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.
“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.”