Somaliland: Government and UN Set to Resolve Airspace Control Controversy

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By: Yusuf M HasanUN Operated UNHAS flights banned since Mid May

NAIROBI (Somalilandsun) – The ban on UN flights imposed by the Somaliland government is set to be lifted as soon as the airspace control controversy is resolved.

The UN and Somaliland have proposed that the Somaliland and Somalia and the UN should restart a trilateral discussion with the view of settling the dispute around the air traffic management in the post-CACAS period. The UN will contact Somalia on this and will oversee the process.

This development follows a meeting the somaliland foreign minister Dr Mohamed Abdilahi Omar held in Nairobi with the head of all UN operations in Somalia and Somaliland, Mr Philippe Lazzarine, the Director of UNDP Nr, David Clapp,the Deputy SRSG, Peter De Clercq, and the CACAS programme manager.

Somaliland Ban of all UN Flights by the minister of Aviation Mr Mahmud Abdi Hashi on the 14th May 2013 came after UNDP announced that it had transferred the country’s airspace control to the Somalia Federal government in Mogadishu.

While acknowledging the ban that literally paralysed its then daily flights operated by UNHAS also informed that it was initiating negotiations with somaliland officials in order to reach an amicable solution as it revealed that the ban had and will not in any way affect its on-going and planned development and humanitarian projects in the horn of Africa country that the body has not yet recognized as a sovereign state.

The Nairobi meeting is a follow up to an exploratory meet that discussed the question of the future management of airspace of Somaliland between the Somaliland Government, the UNDP Country Director, the CACAS Project Coordinator and a representative from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held in Hargeisa on 25 May in Hargeisa. .

According to Dr Omar the objectives of the Nairobi discussions were to highlight the importance of agreeing a structure and timetable to bring about an orderly and sustainable transition, and to highlight the practical and political difficulties associated with acting contrary to that procedure.

The discussions also pertained to putting UNDP and ICAO on notice that Somaliland will not accept the unilateral transfer of control of Somaliland’s airspace to Mogadishu, and that a compromise solution must be found which gives Somaliland both control of its airspace and the resulting revenue. This will require a delay of the unilateral transfer agreed on 13 May, and an urgent reconvening of the Steering Committee. »Dr Omar told Somalilandsun

Another objective of the Nairobi meet was to register Somaliland’s strong protest to the unilateral actions by either the UN or Somali Government and also to urgently establish lines of communication with the UN and the ICAO, to ensure that Somaliland’s rights are protected”

Somalilandsun is privy of a position paper by the Somaliland government that was submitted to the UN in Nairobi on 29th May 2013 which was made available by sources within the UN Gigiri complex in Nairobi on condition that they remain anonymous.

Below is the government’s position paper prepared by the foreign ministry and submitted by Dr Omar during the Nairobi meeting of 29th May 2013.

Quote Subject: Position letter

The meeting of the Somaliland government with UNDP and ICAO in Nairobi on 29th May regarding the proposed transfer of control of Somaliland airspace from CACAS to the Somali

The current meeting is a follow up to an exploratory meet that discussed the question of the future management of airspace of Somaliland between the Somaliland Government, the UNDP Country Director, the CACAS Project Coordinator and a representative from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held in Hargeisa on 25 May in Hargeisa. .

Somaliland Government met the UNDP Country Director, the CACAS Project Coordinator and a representative from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on 25 May in Hargeisa to discuss the question of the future management of airspace of Somaliland.

The Somali Minister of Information, Post, Telecommunications and Transport, Abdullahi Elmoge Hersi, issued a statement on 12 May 2013 announcing that control of Somaliland’s airspace would revert to Mogadishu at the end of 2013.

The political statement jointly made by UNDP, ICAO and the Federal Government of Somalia-FGS with regard to the unilateral transfer of the Ex-Somalia Air Space and its management to the FGS breaches the previous agreement and disrupts the Steering Committee process through which a mutually agreed solution to the issue of airspace management was to be found.

In response, the Government of Somaliland and the Somaliland Air Space Management (MoCAAT) decided to suspend all UN flights in and out of Somaliland from 15 May 2013. Starting from 5 July 2013 MoCAAT is planning to take over full control and management of Somaliland’s airspace.

ICAO was mandated in June 1994 to provide air navigation services to civil aircraft in the Mogadishu Flight Information Region (FIR). The arrangement was amended in March 1995, when UNDP assumed responsibility ‘pending the establishment of a successor organization or the Government of Somalia’.

In light of the expiry of the UN mandate, the FGS, ICAO and UNDP agreed that from 1 June 2013, flight information services currently provided by the Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority for Somalia (CACAS) will continue to be provided by the same entity which will be renamed ‘Flight Information Services of Somalia’ (FISS).

In parallel, the parties agreed that ICAO would develop a plan for the safe transfer of control of the airspace to the Government of Somalia as of 1 January 2014.

These unilateral decisions ignore agreements reached through the ‘Steering Committee’ Meetings. These meetings, coordinated by UNDP, ICAO and CACAS, were jointly established in May 2011 by the Government of Somaliland and the Transitional Government of Somalia (TFG), with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of transferring airspace control from CACAS to the respective governments. A Transitional Technical Team had already been contracted to assess the most feasible and satisfactory option for the formal transfer of the CACAS project, and was to deploy 1 June 2013. The work of this Transitional Technical Team has been pre-empted by the announcement.

Somaliland’s case:

Somaliland has been independent since 1991. The 2001 Somaliland constitution states, in Article Two, that the national territory includes the airspace. That constitution was endorsed in a 2001 referendum by an overwhelming majority of the people. Somaliland therefore exercises sovereign control of its airspace. Somaliland rejects unilateral control over it’s airspace by Mogadishu and insists on the need for the Steering Committee to reconvene and reach a consensus on post CACAS arrangements.

Somaliland is deeply concerned about the memorandum of understanding signed by UNDP, ICAO and the Somali government on 13 May agreeing to transfer control of all former Somali airspace to Mogadishu.

Somaliland rejects this decision, which ignores the consultations which have taken place in the Steering Committee set up in May 2011 between Somaliland and the TFG, which was coordinated by ICAO, overseen by CACAS, and under the trusteeship of UNDP. The committee was mandated to find a mutually agreeable framework for post-CACAS airspace management.

The transfer of airspace management will require the cooperation of Somaliland’s aviation authorities and related agencies, especially in ensuring that future operations meet maximum standards of safety and security. Somaliland has a long history of working with CACAS to ensure that these safety and security standards have been met. The Steering Committee provided the forum for coordinating these efforts, and Somaliland will not alternatively contribute to any process in which it is not an equal actor, or which ignores its concerns.

The remaining tasks of the Steering Committee should be resumed immediately and carried out as planned. The findings of the Transitional Technical Team should be considered by the Steering Committee. The Committee should then reach a consensus decision for post-CACAS aviation management arrangements.

Somaliland is willing to consider a compromise – a supra-national body that will manage the airspace and collect the revenue raised by over-flights pending the outcome of the bilateral steering committee recommendations. Fundamental to this approach would be the establishment, by ICAO, of a separate Flight Information Region for Somaliland’s airspace, which would allow Somaliland to collect its own revenues and fees, and control its airspace.

In the event that Somaliland’s views are ignored, my Government reserves the right to establish its own airspace management arrangements in its territory.

Pending a resolution of this issue, the ban on UN flights to and from our airports on 15 May continues. The UN and ICAO should be in no doubt about the strength of feeling about this issue in Somaliland.

The UN’s approach to resolving this stalemate will be seen as a test case for the management of all other issues affecting cooperation between Somaliland and Somalia. The Steering Committee had been a unique example of successful cooperation between our two governments on matters of practical concern. Abandoning it sets a negative precedent for the Somaliland/Somalia Dialogue, initiated with the support of the international community following the London Conference on Somalia in February 2012. It ignores point 7 of the Communiqueì adopted following the Somaliland/Somalia talks in Ankara on 13 April 2013, when the parties agreed “to refrain from using any inflammatory language and any other act which may put the continuation of the Dialogue at risk.-Unquote

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