Somalia: Somaliland suspends construction of UAE military airfield
HARGEISA, Somaliland – Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland announced on Saturday, September 14 that it suspended the construction of a UAE military airfield in the port city Berbera, Garowe Online reports.
In a televised speech, the president of the self-declared republic, Muse Bihi Abdi said the controversial airport that has been under construction for months as part of the United Arab Emirates military base now converted for civilian use.
“The controversial airport that UAE Military base today became a civilian airport and from next week it will be handed over to a new company to complete the construction works,” said Bihi as he returns from Djibouti visit.
On February 12, 2017, Somaliland parliament has given the UAE the green light to open a military base in the port town of Berber after the lawmakers unanimously passed a formal application by the Gulf country seeking permission.
Somaliland has signed with the Dubai state-owned port operator, DP World in 2016 a $442 million deal to expand and manage Berbera port despite opposition from the Somali Government.
The UAE wanted to use the base as a coastal-surveillance system to help protect trade flows through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a key shipping lane used by oil tankers and other cargo vessels en route to the Suez Canal.
The former British protectorate of Somaliland declared unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, a year after a civil war broke in the Horn of Africa nation, but, it has not succeeded to gain international recognition.
Berbera is located some 300 Kilometers (190 miles) south of war-torn Yemen. Emirati footholds in Somaliland and Eritrea provide strategic locations as the UAE supports the Saudi-led war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.