Somali PM Hassan Ali Khayre to visit Turkey – AL Jazeera

Turkey opened its biggest overseas military base in Mogadishu last month [Reuters]

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre is set to visit Turkey on Wednesday and meet Somalis who are being treated there after being wounded in a massive truck bomb attack in Mogadishu last week.

At least 358 people were killed in the October 14 blast, in what was the deadliest single attack to ever hit Somalia’s capital.

Hundreds of others were also wounded in the devastating explosion, with many suffering severe burns.

A day after the attack, Somali officials said that Turkey had responded positively to a request for medical assistance.

Shortly after, Ankara sent medical supplies and an ambulance plane which airlifted 35 of the most badly wounded to Turkey for further treatment.

During his visit, which will last until Friday, Khayre is also scheduled to meet Binali Yildirim, his Turkish counterpart.

Analysts said the trip reaffirms the strong relations the two countries have enjoyed in recent years, at a time when Ankara seeks to assume a leading role and increase its foothold in the strategic Horn of Africa nation.

“Turkey has used its humanitarian foreign policy, a discourse widely used by Ankara in the past few years, as soft power in Somalia through aid and investments,” Galip Dalay, research director of Al Sharq Forum, told Al Jazeera.

‘Lucrative interests’

Last month, Turkey set up its biggest overseas military base in Mogadishu.

The camp cost $50m and will be used by Somali soldiers for training purposes, according to reports in state media.

But just as it seeks to strengthen its ties with Somalia and extend its reach as a regional power, Turkey is also eyeing further economic opportunities.

In recent years, it has offered aid and made a number of large investments, including the building of an airport terminal, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure.

The volume of trade, meanwhile, between the two countries was $118m last year, according to Bulent Tufenkci, Turkey’s minister of customs and trade.

Hamza Egal, a Nairobi-based Somalia analyst, said that Ankara “has been a strong ally in Somalia’s state building, but it also seeks mutually lucrative interests with the fragile state”.

“The strategic location of Somalia and its political impasse has made it an attractive location for foreign entities that have geopolitical interests in the region,” said Egal.

Coup bid reaction

Turkey’s pivot towards Somalia was signalled in 2011 when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was a prime minister at the time, visited the Horn of Africa country at a time when Somalis were experiencing one of the worst famines of the region.

Since then, Erdogan has travelled to Somalia two more times.

“Through the policies in the 2010s, Turkey put Somalia under international attention, a country that has gone through multiple humanitarian crises and a big armed conflict,” said Dalay.

In response to the Turkish help in the wake of the Mogadishu blast, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo called Erdogan “his brother” and expressed his “heartfelt gratitude … for standing with us this tough time”.

“Turkey has been consistently supportive,” he said.

The close ties between Erdogan and Somalia’s leadership were also on display straight after a failed coup attempt in Turkey last year, blamed by Ankara on Fethullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader and businessman based in the United States.

Right after the coup bid, Somalia shut down two schools and one hospital owned by Gulen’s organisation and extradited suspects with alleged links to his group.

Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the coup attempt – an allegation he denies.

Source: Al Jazeera