Saudi Arabia ‘to open military base in Djibouti’
Manama: Djibouti is looking forward to signing an accord with Saudi Arabia to set up a Saudi base in the Eastern African country, its ambassador in Riyadh said.
Dhia-Eddin Bamakhrama said that he expected the signing to take place soon, adding that relations between the two countries have been steadily improving and that their security, military, economic and political cooperation have now reached unprecedented levels.
“The agreement will cover cooperation in all terrestrial, marine and aerial military aspects,” Bamakhrama told London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat daily.
The ambassador said that the recent visit by President Esmaïl Omar Guelleh to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud had marked a far-reaching positive change in the relations between the two countries.
It also resulted in the formation of a joint military commission to discuss cooperation between the two countries, he added.
The envoy said that relations between Djibouti and Saudi Arabia were open at all levels and that two countries had convergent views on all issues in the region, adding that the participation of his country in the anti-terror Islamic coalition was in response to an invitation from Riyadh.
The Saudi cabinet on Monday approved tasking Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud with discussing with Djibouti the draft of the agreement between the two countries to boost military cooperation.
In January, Djibouti cut off its diplomatic relations with Iran following the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and general consulate in the northern city of Mashhad.
Despite its proximity to highly restive regions in Africa and the Middle East, Djibouti has been a model of stability. Lying on the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, the Horn of Africa nation is a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
Djibouti is already home to the largest permanent American military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, accommodating 4,000 US personnel. The US reportedly used its base to launch drones that bombed sites belonging to Al Qaida in Yemen. Djibouti also hosts a French military base while several other navies often use its port.
Saudi Arabia has been steadily improving its relations with African countries. One of its major recent achievements was the improving of relations with Sudan, one of the continent’s largest countries that was for a long time an Iranian ally.
Sudan’s relations with the Gulf countries suffered after 1990 and the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime. Tehran took advantage of the situation and improved its relations with Khartoum, and reports said that Tehran supplied Sudan with ammunition.
However, the closeness ended in 2014 after Sudan accused the Iranian cultural centre of preaching Shiism in a predominantly Sunni country.
The positive signal towards the Gulf country was picked up and relations with Saudi Arabia have been steadily improving. In January, Khartoum announced that it was severing its diplomatic ties with Tehran following the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.
“In response to the barbaric attacks on the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad... the government of Sudan announces the immediate severing of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a Sudanese Foreign Ministry statement said.