Somalia denies Kenya claims in maritime border spat

Somalia denies Kenya claims in maritime border spat

PHOTO CREDIT: Punch

Somalia on Sunday rejected accusations by Kenya that it had auctioned off oil and gas blocks in a disputed maritime area.

Nairobi on Saturday recalled its ambassador from Mogadishu for “urgent consultations” over the maritime border dispute that involves lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits.

Kenya said it had acted because of an “egregious decision by the government of Somalia to auction off oil and gas blocks in Kenya’s maritime territorial area that borders Somalia”.

It accused Somalia of an “unparalleled affront and illegal grab at the resources of Kenya”.

But in a statement Sunday Somalia’s Foreign Ministry denied the allegations levelled at Mogadishu.

“Somalia is not now offering nor does it have any plans to offer any blocks in the disputed maritime area until the parties’ maritime boundary is decided by the ICJ.”

It added that it wished to “reassure the government of Kenya that it stands by its commitment not to undertake any unilateral activities in the disputed area until such time as the ICJ renders its judgement”, with which it would comply.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague, which rules in disputes between countries, has been hearing a case brought by Somalia against Kenya over the dispute.

Mogadishu’s case against Nairobi focuses on an attempt to redraw the sea border which would affect at least three of Kenya’s 20 offshore oil blocks.

Somalia says bilateral talks have failed to resolve the spat. A final outcome will significantly impact a new source of revenue for either of the east African neighbours.

Somalia, which lies north of Kenya, wants to continue the frontier along the line of the land border, in a southeast direction.

But Kenya wants the border to head out to sea in a straight line east, along the parallel of latitude, giving it more sea territory.

The disputed triangle of water, which stretches over an area of more than 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles), is believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas in a part of Africa only recently found to be sitting on significant reserves.

A relative newcomer to the oil industry but seen as having major potential, Kenya has already awarded three oil blocks to Italian energy company Eni SpA.

AFP