U.S., in latest effort to restore ties, opens mission to Somalia

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2015 9:42 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has reopened its diplomatic mission to Somalia, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, marking the latest step to restore diplomatic ties since the U.S. withdrawal from the war-torn nation in the early 1990s.

However, the mission will be located not in Somalia, but in the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Kenya with the U.S. representative traveling back and forth from Nairobi, the department said.

"U.S. officials will continue to travel to Somalia to conduct official business as security conditions permit," department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

"The new mission reflects a continuation of U.S. efforts to normalize the U.S.-Somalia bilateral relationship," he added.

U.S. officials have said they eventually hope to establish the mission in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

The Horn of Africa nation has been plagued by security concerns as the government aims to shore up control and prevent the country from slipping back into the hands of al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group.

While other Western nations have already established embassies, the United States is moving more slowly and has said more progress is needed in Somalia.

In 1991, the United States closed its embassy in Somalia as the African nation plunged into civil war, according to the State Department.

The U.S. military then pulled out after 18 U.S. soldiers were shot down from a helicopter in a 1993 incident known as "Black Hawk Down." The last American troops left in 1994.

The United States again recognized Somalia in early 2013, and, in May, Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to the nation to announce the move toward restoring diplomatic ties.

A few days later, Washington's nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Somalia withdrew for personal reasons.

U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to name a replacement, according to Kirby, who said the mission will be led by a Chargé d’Affaires until the U.S. Senate confirms another ambassador.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Lesley Wroughton Editing by W Simon)