February 17, 2019 / 10:12 AM / 6 months ago

Kenya summons its ambassador to Somalia as territorial row escalates

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya has summoned its ambassador to Somalia back home after the Mogadishu government’s decision to auction oil and gas exploration blocks at the centre of a maritime territorial dispute in the Indian Ocean, the foreign ministry said.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is considering a claim on the two countries’ maritime boundaries brought by Somalia in 2014 after negotiations over the 100,000 square km stretch of sea floor broke down.

Kenya said on Saturday it had summoned its ambassador, Lucas Tumbo, and asked his Somalia counterpart Mohammed Muhamud Nur to return to Mogadishu for consultation with his government.

“The summons is a consequence of a most regretful and egregious decision by the government of Somalia to auction off oil and gas blocks in Kenya’s maritime territorial area,” the foreign ministry said.

Somalia, which held the auction in London on Feb. 7 according to Kenya, denied the accusation. “There was no auction of oil blocks,” the government said in a statement.

Officials in Mogadishu had confidence they could secure the territorial integrity of the country through the legal process in The Hague, they said in the statement, adding they expected the court to rule justly.

Kenya said it had raised concerns with the Somali government a day before the auction after it noticed blocks in what it considers to be its maritime territory were included in the auction.

“This unparalleled affront and illegal grab at the resources of Kenya will not go unanswered and is tantamount to an act of aggression against the people of Kenya and their resources,” it said in a statement, adding it was ready to defend its territorial integrity “at any cost”.

The two states have been co-operating in the long fight against the al Qaeda-linked, al Shabaab militants in Somalia. Kenya said the row over maritime territory could jeopardise that.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri and Abdi Sheikh; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Evans

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