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Ethiopia 'Secures' access to sea after deal with Somaliland

Harun Maruf
Tuesday January 2, 2024

Ethiopia and the self-declared republic of Somaliland have signed a “historic” initial agreement that will allow landlocked Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office announced Monday.

The announcement was made in Addis Ababa where Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi is visiting. According to Ethiopia, Ahmed and Abdi signed the “Memorandum of Understanding,” or MoU, for the partnership in the Ethiopian capital.

It said the MoU is “intended to serve as a framework for the multisectoral partnership between the two sides.”

“The Memorandum of Understanding shall pave the way to realize the aspiration of Ethiopia to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to seaports,” said a statement issued by Ahmed’s office.

“It also strengthens their security, economic and political partnership. Furthermore, the Memorandum of Understanding also indicates the pathway [to] bolster their political and diplomatic relations,” the statement said.

Abdi arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday and was welcomed by Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia's deputy prime minister.

The office of the spokesperson of Somaliland’s president posted a purported recording of Abdi saying that Somaliland has agreed to lease 20 kilometers of coastline along the Red Sea in Somaliland to Ethiopia. Without specifying the location of the piece of land, Abdi said Ethiopia will have a marine force base on the leased land.

In return, the recording claims, Ethiopia will officially recognize Somaliland once the final deal is signed. He did not say when the deal will be signed. VOA Somali has not verified the authenticity of the recording.

“The Prime Minister of Ethiopia has requested from us to enter an understanding for their military to have a base on the sea as they have a maritime force,” Abdi is heard saying in the recording.

“And for us, Somaliland has many times been asking Ethiopia to recognize our nationhood … as we have agreed, which is written here, we allow them 20-km [of] sea, and they will recognize Somaliland when the agreement is signed,” he said.

Abdi said Ethiopia will use Berbera seaport for some of its imports. Ethiopia mainly uses the port in Djibouti.

“God willing, Ethiopia will become the first country to recognize Somaliland, and we will become the first country to allow Ethiopia a 20-km sea,” he said on the recording.

Ethiopia has not officially said it will recognize Somaliland. But Ahmed, who was sitting next to Abdi, did not contradict the remarks made by the president of Somaliland.

The office of Ethiopia’s prime minister said the signed MoU “reaffirms the principled position of the Ethiopia government to advance mutual interests through cooperation on the basis of reciprocity.”

“The Memorandum of Understanding ushers in a new chapter of cooperation and has a huge significance for regional integration in the horn,” the statement said. “It also enables Ethiopia to enhance its role in maintaining regional peace and security.”

The federal government of Somalia has not yet commented on the development, but the state-run news agency reported that the cabinet will convene an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the deal between the two countries.

Federal Somali lawmaker Mursal Khalif said on X that he believes Somalia “will respond appropriately to news of Ethiopia infringing on our territorial integrity.”

Despite the new agreement signed between Somaliland and Ethiopia, Somalia still considers Somaliland as part of Somalia. Somaliland declared separation from Somalia in May 1991 but has not yet received international recognition.

The announcement comes just days after Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Abdi met in Djibouti and agreed to resume talks between both governments. The federal government of Somalia has not yet commented on the development.


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