TAIPEI (Reuters) – Somaliland has “huge” investment potential in untapped oil and gas reserves, the foreign minister of Somalia’s breakaway region told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, pitching investment opportunities on a high-profile visit.
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence. The region has been mostly peaceful while Somalia has grappled with three decades of civil war.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory and likewise diplomatically isolated, and Somaliland set up representative offices in each other’s capitals in 2020.
Meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Somaliland Foreign Minister Esse Kayd said they welcomed “giant” Taiwanese companies to invest and trade with them.
“In the mining sector, Somaliland has huge potential for foreign investment, including hydrocarbon deposits, oil and gas, as well as coal, which can be easily explored,” he said.
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“We are encouraging maximizing trade and investment potential rather than aid dependency.”
His delegation, which includes the finance minister, will also meet executives from state-owned oil firm CPC, according to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.
Tsai said both Taiwan and Somaliland were like-minded democratic partners.
“Somaliland is now an important location in East Africa for Taiwan’s Africa project,” she added.
Taiwan has been all but driven out of Africa diplomatically by China in recent years, with only tiny eSwatini now maintaining full relations with the island.
China has ramped up pressure on countries not to engage with Taiwan as it seeks to assert its sovereignty claims.
Kayd, in an apparent swipe at China’s opposition to their Taiwan friendship, said Somaliland was a sovereign nation with a right to international relations.
“All coercive or threatening measures to deny such collaboration between international partners …. do little to promote the peace and security that the region and the world require.”
Taiwan has been keen to show it is a selfless development partner for Somaliland and last month donated 150,000 doses of its domestically developed Medigen COVID-19 vaccine.
Strategically situated on the Horn of Africa, Somaliland borders Djibouti, where China maintains its first ever overseas military base.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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