World Bulletin / News Desk
“Somalia has taken a neutral position,” Abdi Halane Hirsi, spokesman and cultural attache at the Somali embassy in Pretoria, said. “We shall not end ties with either Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Our Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for dialogue to resolve this issue.”
Hirsi denied media reports suggesting Saudi Arabia had withheld $50 million in aid it earlier pledged to the Horn of Africa country until it cuts ties with Qatar.
“I think those are baseless media reports because Somalia already knows its position on this issue,” he said on Sunday.
However, a senior official in Mogadishu claimed the Saudi authorities had attempted to pressure Somalia to cut ties to Qatar since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed links on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
Qatar denies the allegation and has been supported by Turkey after its Arab neighbors cut transport links with Doha and ordered Qatari nationals to leave.
The Somali official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said six Somali Cabinet ministers who recently visited Saudi Arabia were pressured to end ties with Qatar or miss out on development aid.
“I think Somalia will not take any sides against the Qatari government because Somalia’s interest is Islamic world unity,” the official said.
Somalia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement last week calling for “all brotherly countries involved to settle the differences through dialogue and within the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”
Somalia, a member of the Arab League, also offered to help resolve the dispute.
Some economists fear that Somalia, which largely depends on exports of livestock to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, could face sanctions if it continues its policy of neutrality.
However, others have said Somalia has adopted an even-handed stance to show solidarity with Turkey, its largest development partner.
Turkey has flown food supplies to Qatar since the blockade was imposed and has pledged to send troops to train the Qatari gendarmerie. Turkish government figures have repeatedly called for an easing of tensions and a diplomatic solution.