MOGADISHU– Somalia on Monday hinted it could release the 9.6 million U.S. dollars seized from a plane chartered by United Arab Emirates (UAE) diplomats to transport the cash to Mogadishu, a move that can defuse tension between the two countries.
The Somali foreign ministry said it had received a satisfactory response regarding the money seized on April 8 at Mogadishu airport.
“The Federal Government of Somalia has sought to clarify facts surrounding recent developments in order to remove any room for misunderstanding between the two governments and peoples. This effort continues,” the ministry said in a statement.
“As part of these efforts and after lengthy deliberations between the two governments on the recent incident involving funds that were intercepted... the UAE has explained the purpose and the utilization of the said funds and the Federal Government will work together with the UAE on their utilisation,” it added.
The statement came hours after the UAE disbanded its Somalia training programme it started in 2014 in protest of the incident at Mogadishu airport.
The Gulf nation has also been paying the salaries of 2,407 Somali soldiers and built three training centres, a hospital, and dispatched Emirati medical teams for treating Somalis.
Mogadishu officials reportedly stopped a plane from the UAE from leaving the country after Emirati military trainers on board refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.
According to reports, some 47 Emirati Armed Forces personnel who were on the plane were held at gunpoint and assaulted by Somali security forces.
Mogadishu has since denied the allegations, saying that it only took the action after the UAE ambassador, who was at the airport, refused to let the bags containing the cash be scanned.
The UAE, which has been supporting the Horn of Africa nation for years as part of its stabilisation efforts, said the money was meant to pay the salaries of Somalia National Army (SNA) soldiers and trainers.
The UAE has since condemned the seizure, terming it illegal and a breach of diplomatic protocol, and accusing the Somali government of creating “unnecessary tension.”
Mogadishu said Somalia and the UAE share a strong economic, political and cultural bond that dates back several centuries linking the citizens of both countries through history, economy, culture and geography.