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Kenya broke diplomatic relations with neighbor Somalia after a row over several oil and gas blocks escalated into an open conflict, media report, adding Nairobi expelled the Somali ambassador on Saturday and summoned its own representative in Somalia home.
Kenya has accused its neighbor of auctioning oil and gas blocks that fall within Kenyan territory, but Somalia has rejected the accusations, which stem from a long-running maritime border dispute between the two.
The authorities in Nairobi said the "egregious decision by the government of Somalia to auction off oil and gas blocks in Kenya's maritime territorial area that borders Somalia" caused the recall of its ambassador in Mogadishu and the expulsion of the Somali diplomat, adding the auction was an "unparalleled affront and illegal grab at the resources of Kenya," AFP reports.
Somalia has responded with a statement by the foreign ministry that says "Somalia is not now offering nor does it have any plans to offer any blocks in the disputed maritime area until the parties' maritime boundary is decided by the ICJ."
The International Court of Justice is currently hearing the case regarding the maritime border between the two Horn of Africa countries.
Somalia said last week it will tender several offshore oil and gas blocks later this year despite criticism from the opposition that the tender should wait until the country gets a law and regulations governing the use of the country’s natural resources. Somalia may sit on as much as 1 billion barrels of oil and gas.
Kenya is also a newcomer on the oil stage but it is further along the way: Tullow Oil discovered reserves that could reach 1.2 billion barrels of oil in the Turkana County and is already preparing for commercial production in 2022.
For both countries, the newly discovered oil wealth would be an important new source of revenue, so the current spat might be the start of a prolonger bilateral tension.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.