NAIROBI, - The authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have accused the Republic of Djibouti of arming the neighbouring self-declared republic of Somaliland to enable the latter to attack and destabilise Puntland.
Abdullahi Yusuf, the president of Puntland, told a news conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, that Djibouti was not only arming Somaliland but also encouraging it to attack Puntland to create instability in the region.
Djibouti, along with Ethiopia and Kenya, is a member of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development facilitation committee, which is steering the Somali peace talks being held in Nairobi.
The Djibouti government, however, dismissed the charges "as baseless and utter nonsense".
Foreign Minister Ali Abdi Farah, who is also in Nairobi for the peace talks, told IRIN: "Djibouti has always supported efforts to resolve Somali disputes peacefully. We will never be involved in any action that will lead to the shedding of Somali blood, and to accuse it of instigating conflict is nonsense." Farah instead urged Yusuf to withdraw his forces from Las Anod, the capital of Sool Region. "We want him to return to the status quo there."
Before last month's occupation of the town by Puntland forces, representatives of both Somaliland and Puntland were present in Las Anod. Tension between the two sides has risen ever since.
Officials from Somaliland have denied receiving support from Djibouti. Abdillahi Muhammad Du'ale, the information minister, told IRIN that it was "regrettable and unfair to involve our neighbours in this. Djibouti has always supported the stability of the region," he said.
Sool and Sanaag regions fall within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the clans there are associated with Puntland. These include the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante, which, along with the Majerteen - the main clan in Puntland - form the Harti sub-clan of the Darood.
Meanwhile, a local journalist in Hargeysa, the Somaliland capital, told IRIN that heavily armed Somaliland troops had been moving towards the disputed area of Las Anod to reinforce forces already there.
"Unless an outside force intervenes, it is just a matter of time before the two forces [Somaliland/Puntland] clash," he said.