The request for the regional summit by Ethiopia comes days after Somaliland’s president said his government will proceed with a deal allowing Ethiopia to build a naval base on its coast in return Ethiopia considers the recognition of the Republic of Somaliland as a sovereign state
By Simon Marks
Ethiopia requested a summit of East African leaders to “explain itself on current regional matters,” after it announced plans to mull the recognition of the Republic of Somaliland as a sovereign state in return for access to the Red Sea.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry made the request in a letter to the Foreign Ministry of Djibouti, where a regional bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development is based. No date for the summit has been set, the Djiboutian ministry said by email.
The request by Addis Ababa comes days after Somaliland’s president said his government will proceed with a deal allowing Ethiopia to build a naval base on its coast. An agreement on the plan is being drafted that envisages providing landlocked Ethiopia with direct access to the Gulf of Aden, situated at the entrance to the Red Sea, in return for diplomatic recognition, President Muse Bihi Abdi said in an interview with the state broadcaster last week.
Somaliland President Insists Ethiopia Will Sign Port Deal
Proposed accord has drawn Somalia threat of military retaliation. Source: Bloomberg
“The official signing agreement will explicitly mention the recognition of Somaliland,” Abdi said in a transcript of the interview posted to X on Thursday. “A small piece of land has been leased to the Ethiopian navy as a naval base, with the understanding that trade and ports in Somaliland fall under our jurisdiction. The agreement specifies that Ethiopia’s imports and exports will utilize the port of Berbera.”
The planned accord has raised tensions in the Horn of Africa. Somalia claims Somaliland as part of its territory and says the region’s unilateral declaration of independence more than three decades ago is illegal. No other African nation has recognized Somaliland as a sovereign state.
Somalia has threatened military retaliation should the deal go ahead. The authorities in Mogadishu have drawn the support of countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Eritrea, which have either sent officials to Somalia or issued statements backing its sovereignty.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said on Monday that granting recognition to Somaliland would amount to annexation of its territory.
“It is untenable if one African state decides to break international laws by attempting to annex the territory of another, as Ethiopia has unsuccessfully attempted to do in my country,” he said in remarks posted on X. “This illegal action will cause tensions, conflict, and regional instability if it is not retracted.”
The dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia adds to growing tensions on the Red Sea, where attacks by Houthi militants on vessels have led to the US and British military carrying out air strikes on the Iran-backed rebels.
Redwan Hussein, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s national security adviser, has denied Ethiopia’s plans to annex part of Somalia.
“The signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Somaliland is a deal for cooperation and partnership that grants Ethiopia access to the sea on business terms,” he said on X last week. “It isn’t an annexation or assumption of sovereignty over the territory of any state.”
William Ruto, the president of Ethiopia’s southern neighbor Kenya, said discussions are continuing to “persuade Ethiopia” to consider other options beyond its demand for a port.
“There are different options that necessarily don’t involve the sovereignty issues of other countries,” he said in an interview in Rome. “Because as a rules-based world, we all must respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries. And that’s really the basic minimum.”
— With assistance from Fasika Tadesse, Mohamed Omar Ahmed, Karl Maier, and David Herbling
- TCAS Incident Highlights Ongoing Issues In Somaliland And Somalia Airspace
- 3 Emirati Soldiers, One Bahraini Officer Killed In Attack In Somalia
- Implementing Ethio-Somaliland MoU Crucial To Bolster Regional Development, Security: HPR Standing Committee Chair
- Brexit Britain Edging Closer To Surprise Diplomatic Move To Help End Houthi Red Sea Crisis
- Eliot Wilson: Recognize Somaliland As An Independent Nation
- Joe Biden Pushed To Follow UK Lead In Recognizing Somaliland, An Essential Ally In Red Sea Houthi Crisis