May 27 Somaliland expects to choose a partner to develop and manage its Berbera port by the end of the year, with construction expected to start early next year, the breakaway territory's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Mohamed Behi Yonis said the state, which broke away from Somalia in 1991 but is not internationally recognised, was in talks with France's Bollore, the Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company and Dubai's DP World.
"Those are the three major port management companies that are interested in developing the port. We have been discussing with all of them," he told Reuters on the sidelines of an African Development Bank meeting in Ivory Coast.
"We have not made up our minds. We're looking at all options," he added.
Yonis said the port was expected to become a major transit hub for goods entering and leaving the Horn of Africa and particularly Somaliland's landlocked but economically thriving neighbour Ethiopia.
Ethiopia lost its direct access to the sea in 1993 when Eritrea gained independence following a three-decade civil war. It is currently heavily dependent on the port of Djibouti.
"They don't want all their eggs in one basket," Yonis said, adding that Somaliland had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian government to ease access to the port.
"That entails the development of the Berbera corridor, a road from the border with Ethiopia to Berbera. We are also thinking of having a railway," he said.
Somaliland has enjoyed relative stability compared with the rest of Somalia, which has been racked by decades of civil war. The territory has held a series of peaceful elections.
However several years of talks hosted by Turkey that Somaliland had hoped would lead to a peaceful separation from Somalia have made little progress.
Yonis said he hoped to see negotiations resume in the coming months.
"When we first started talks we had the Norwegians, the UK, we had the European Union. So we're asking those states to come in again and see how they can mediate."