In a recent statement to state media, Ethiopia’s newly appointed Foreign Minister, Taye-Atske Selassie, emphasized the importance of direct access to the sea for the stability and national security of the country.

He described Ethiopia’s quest for seaports as “very legitimate” and highlighted the extensive diplomatic engagement that has taken place to inform the international community about this aspiration.

As a sovereign state, Ethiopia recognizes the need for a solid economy supported by stable transactions. According to FM Taye-Atske, Ethiopia’s pursuit of sea access is not in contradiction with factual settings. The country should not bear undue burdens or become a victim of other countries’ internal issues. These statements reflect Ethiopia’s determination to secure its rightful place in the global maritime landscape. “Ethiopia should not be the holder of undue burdens and it should not be a victim of other countries’ internal burden,” the report further said.

FM Taye-Atske Selassie's Statement Ethiopia's National Security Concerns
Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Taye-Atske Selassie

FM Taye-Atske also expressed Ethiopia’s willingness to engage in further negotiations regarding its seaport aspiration and the Abbay Dam (also known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or GERD). Negotiations with Egypt have already taken place over the course of four rounds, and Ethiopia is ready to resume discussions whenever Egypt is willing to do so. Ethiopia’s approach is rooted in its commitment to not embrace foreign commands or dictations but to negotiate for the benefit of all parties involved.

A significant development in Ethiopia’s pursuit of sea access occurred on January 1, 2024. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that outlined a lease agreement between the two countries. Under this agreement, Somaliland would lease more than 19 kilometers of its Red Sea coastline to Ethiopia near the port city of Berbera.

This move comes amidst tensions surrounding Prime Minister Ahmed’s expressed desire for Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea. In return for this lease, the MoU reportedly includes a provision stating that Ethiopia would recognize Somaliland as an independent state in the future. If this were to happen, Ethiopia would become the first UN member state to extend recognition to Somaliland.

Ethiopia’s pursuit of access to the sea is driven by a genuine need for stability, security, and economic growth. Landlocked countries often face challenges in conducting international trade and accessing global markets. For Ethiopia, a nation with a rapidly growing population and a thriving economy, seaport access is crucial for ensuring the smooth flow of goods, promoting economic development, and enhancing national security.