The Bush administration said Thursday the United States is not recognizing Somaliland as an independent country despite a State Department visit earlier this week by the breakaway Somali region's leader, Dahir Rayale Kahin. U.S. officials say they defer to the African Union on the recognition issue. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The luncheon meeting Monday between Kahin and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was the highest-level contact between the parties in several years.
But officials here insist it does not portend any early U.S. move to recognize the self-proclaimed independent region of northwestern Somalia, but rather is part of broad U.S. contacts with Somali parties and political figures.
Somaliland declared its independence in 1991 as the rest of Somalia descended into civil conflict. It has enjoyed relative stability and elected governments, though it lacks international recognition.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the fact of Monday's meeting does not mean the United States is on the verge of recognizing Somaliland and that U.S. policy on the matter is unchanged.
He said U.S. officials believe it important to have contacts with responsible political figures from all over Somalia, who have an interest in building the country's institutions and taking it to, as he put it, a more hopeful future:
"Certainly Jendayi's [Frazer's] meetings fall solidly within that category, and it's a policy we are going to continue to pursue," said Sean McCormack. "We have interests in fighting terrorism in Somalia as well as in the Horn of Africa. Part of trying to bring about some greater stability in Somalia, writ large, involves working with the political parties, encouraging the political parties and political leaders in Somali to come together."
McCormack said the United States defers to the African Union as the appropriate forum to address the recognition issue.
Recent U.N. Security Council resolutions on Somalia, backed by the United States, reaffirm support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of the country.
The United States has had no diplomatic presence in Mogadishu for more than a decade, but supports the U.N.-backed transitional government there. Officials say they engage with Somaliland as a regional administration.
The Somaliland leader also had Washington meetings this week with officials from White House National Security Council, the Defense Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
His late predecessor as Somaliland president, Muhammad Ibrahim Egal, had a similar round of Washington meetings in 1999.