Taipei, July 1 (CNA) Taiwan and Somaliland, a self-declared state in East Africa, have signed an agreement to set up representative offices in each other's territory, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced Wednesday.
The agreement was signed between Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and his Somaliland counterpart Yasin Hagi Mohamoud on Feb. 26, when Mohamoud led a delegation to Taipei, Wu said at a press conference.
Mohamoud also met with President Tsai Ing-wen during the trip, Wu said.
Wu's announcement on Wednesday came after a report a day earlier by the Somaliland Chronicle, which cited sources as saying that Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi had appointed a representative to Taiwan.
Somaliland is not recognized as a state by the international community and has no official diplomatic ties with any country.
Its claimed territory in northwestern Somalia is home to an estimated 3.9 million residents.
According to Wu, Taiwan began cooperating with Somaliland on maritime security, medicine and education in 2009, and the two sides entered talks to set up representative offices late last year.
Taiwanese personnel have been in Somaliland since Feb. 6. to set up a Taiwan Representative Office, but it is uncertain when it will be unveiled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wu said.
Once the offices are set up, Taiwan and Somaliland will cooperate in the fields of agriculture, mining, fishing, energy, public health, education and information technology, Wu said.
Somaliland has rich fishing and mineral resources, Wu said, and the establishment of representative offices can help enhance their mutually beneficial relationship.
When asked why Taiwan was not directly establishing diplomatic relations with Somaliland, Wu said the two sides concluded that setting up representative offices was the most beneficial course of action.
Wu was also asked whether Taiwan was now recognizing Somaliland as an independent country, which no other nation has officially done.
Wu initially side-stepped the question, saying Taiwan was setting up a representative office in Somaliland like many other countries had done.
When pressed on the issue by another reporter who pointed out that Wu described Somaliland as an "independent country" in a tweet earlier that day, Wu said that Somaliland "became independent in 1991."
Since then, Somaliland has held three presidential elections and "has been recognized by many countries as a free, democratic and uncorrupted country in Africa," Wu said.
"If we look at the essence of the matter, Somaliland is an independent country," Wu said.
According to Wu, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ethiopia, Turkey, Djibouti, Canada, the European Union and the United Nations all have representative offices in Somaliland.
Somaliland has set up 22 representative offices in various countries, including the United States, the U.K., Canada, France, Belgium and Switzerland, Wu said.
President Tsai and President Bihi both tweeted on Wednesday evening celebrating the announcement, and stressed that Taiwan and Somaliland's relationship is based on shared values.
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Foreign Minister Joseph Wu displays a photo of Somaliland Foreign Minister Yasin Hagi Mohamoud meeting President Tsai Ing-wen / Photo courtesy of CNA