Landlocked Ethiopia may use Ethiopian Airlines as a bargaining chip with reports that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is suggesting to sell 30% of the flagship airline to the Eritrean government in exchange for port access for the country, reports the Amharic language Amba online newspaper.

Ethiopian Airlines was not immediately available for comment.

Abiy reportedly made the remarks in a meeting with investors and business people in Addis Ababa recently, but this could not be verified independently.

How Will Landlocked Ethiopia Get Direct Access To A Port
Map of Ethiopia’s Port Options: Ethiopian government is exploring all options to secure direct access to a port for the country, including negotiation, “give and take,” and force

According to Amba, the prime minister said the Ethiopian government was exploring all options to secure a port for the country through negotiations with Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somaliland. “In the case of Eritrea, the government has proposed to give 30% of Ethiopian Airlines to the Eritrean government in exchange for port access [presumably Massawa],” the report said.

Amba Digital said Eritrea had rejected the offer in the first round of talks. The portal said it had verified the information with three people who had attended the meeting.

Addis Ababa Dangles Ethiopian Airlines Stake To Eritrea For Port AccessAbiy also said the government would consider using force to secure a port, but this would be a last resort. “We want to get a port through peaceful means, but if that fails, we will use force,” he was quoted by Addis Insight.

Under Abiy, a peace agreement was forged with Eritrea, and ties between the neighboring countries were re-established on July 9, 2018, ending hostilities over international borders created when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. However, Ethiopia sees the lack of a port as a major obstacle to its economic development. It currently relies on Djibouti and Somaliland to import and export goods.

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