Representatives of 54 countries met in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday for the start of the Somalia Conference, where they will discuss reconstructing Mogadishu and outline political goals with businessmen and representatives of the Somali government.
Somalia's problems could be solved by formulas of the Somali people, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference alongside the Prime Minister of Somalia's Provisional Government, Abdiweli Mohammed Ali.
Turkey hopes that the talks will help usher in a new era of peace in Somalia, a country that has been subjected to violence and civil war for the past 25 years. Somalia's transitional government is preparing to hand over power to a new civilian government on Aug. 20 that many hope will finally bring stability to the country.
After a long period of instability and conflict, we now have ahead of us an opportunity for genuine peace and security, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday, according to the AFP.
The crisis in Somalia extends beyond the political realm, and Turkey has proved itself to be the troubled country's best friend. While Somalia's status as a failed state is certainly at the heart of the problem, the country has also been plagued by lawlessness, an Islamic insurgency and, earlier this year, devastating famine and drought that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Turkey has given more than $350 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia in the past year, a sizable percentage of it donated by Turkish civilians. Ankara has also re-opened its embassy in Mogadishu, assigned a new ambassador, built refugee camps and began the first regular commercial flights to the Somali capital in more than 20 years.
Turkey does not see Somalia as an area to serve its own interests or as a security threat, but as a place where the human conscience will be tested, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu said this week. Somalia is not a faraway place for us; it is the epicenter of honor and civilization.
Friday's session will focus on how to raise further humanitarian and governmental aid, the Daily Star reported, and Somali Prime Minister Ali has suggested that multiple donors set up a trust fund for Somalia.
Turkey's relationship with Somalia is also indicative of Ankara's new foreign policy vision. Over the past few years, Turkey has spread its influence across the Middle East and Africa. Turkish businesses are investing in infrastructure projects in Iraq and expanding into African countries like Cameroon, South Africa and Congo, while the Turkish political leadership is making friends in Egypt and China.
Before the current crisis, Turkey was expanding its relationship with Syria. But after Bashar al-Assad began attacking protesters in his country, Turkey quickly switched sides and accepted thousands of Syrian refugees and led the campaign to end the violence.
But Somalia doesn't care much what Turkey is doing elsewhere, as long as Erdogan remains a close and productive partner.
Somalia cannot afford another year of systematic self-destruction, Abukar Arman, the Somali Special Envoy to the United States, said earlier this week. The international community ... should support Turkey in its commitment to engage and help Somalia help itself out of its current condition. The alternative is the maintenance of the status quo and anarchy of the past 21 years, and growing threats with the potential to extend beyond the Horn.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and 300 Somali elders are also attending the meeting in Istanbul.