Manama: Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said a deal to build a Saudi military base in the country will happen “very soon.”
“There are no hesitations on the deal and the delay is purely technical as such matters do take some time, and there are no political reasons behind it,” the minister said.
“The security, military and strategic draft of the accord is ready and the coastal areas that could host the base, be it military or naval, have been identified after Saudi military officers and officials explored some of the Djibouti areas. “We have agreed on the base, and the accord is still valid,” the minister said in an interview with London-based Saudi owned Al Sharq Al Awsat daily on Sunday.
The deal was initially discussed in March earlier this year.
Dia Al Deen Bamakhrama, Djibouti’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, at the time, said that the deal comes as relations between the two countries have been steadily growing and that their security, military, economic and political cooperation now reached unprecedented levels.
“The agreement will cover cooperation in all terrestrial, marine and aerial military aspects,” Bamakhrama said.
The ambassador said that an earlier visit by President Esmaïl Omar Guelleh to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud had marked a far-reaching positive change in relations between the two countries.
It also resulted in the formation of a joint military commission to discuss cooperation between the two countries, he added.
In January, Djibouti cut off diplomatic relations with Iran following attacks by an angry mob on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and general consulate in the northern city of Mashhad.
Despite its proximity to highly restive regions in Africa and the Middle East, Djibouti has been a model of stability.
Lying on the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, the Horn of Africa nation is a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
Djibouti is already home to the largest permanent American military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, accommodating 4,000 US personnel.
The US reportedly used its base to launch drones that bombed sites belonging to Al Qaida in Yemen.
Djibouti also hosts a French military base while several other navies often use its port.
Saudi Arabia has been steadily improving its relations with African countries. One of its major recent achievements was the improving of relations with Sudan, one of the continent’s largest countries, that was for a long time an Iranian ally.
Sudan’s relations with the Gulf countries suffered after 1990 and the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime.
Tehran took advantage of the situation and improved its relations with Khartoum, and reports said that Tehran supplied Sudan with ammunition.
However, the closeness ended in 2014 after Sudan accused the Iranian cultural centre of preaching Shiism in a predominantly Sunni country.
The positive signal towards the Gulf country was picked up and relations with Saudi Arabia have been steadily improving.
In January, Khartoum announced that it was severing its diplomatic ties with Tehran following the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.
“In response to the barbaric attacks on the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad... the government of Sudan announces the immediate severing of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a Sudanese Foreign Ministry statement said.