Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland to enable it access the Red Sea port of Berbera has sparked a diplomatic row in the region.
Somaliland seceded from Somalia over three decades ago, but is yet to be recognised by the African Union (AU) or the UN as an independent state.
It was only last week that Somalia and Somaliland agreed to restart talks to resolve their disputes, with Djibouti leading mediation efforts, the Somali National News Agency reported.
Ethiopia’s quest to gain access to the sea trigger debates last year in the region about how it intends achieving that dream.
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed had described the sea access as an existential issue for his country. It relies on neighbouring Djibouti for most of its maritime trade.
Ethiopia lost its access to the sea when Eritrea seceded in the early 1990s.
In 2018 Ethiopia and Somaliland did sign a deal to allow Addis Ababa to own a 19% stake of the port of Berbera but it collapsed in 2022.
The details of Monday’s agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland have not been made public but a statement from Mr Abiy’s office said it would “pave the way to realise the aspiration of Ethiopia to secure access to the sea”.
The agreement was signed in Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi. The deal also recognises Somaliland as an independent nation in due course.
የኢትዮጵያ ስብራት ጥገና ቀን pic.twitter.com/hzks94EGxE
— Abiy Ahmed Ali 🇪🇹 (@AbiyAhmedAli) January 1, 2024
“Ethiopia’s step … endangers the stability and peace of the region,” Somalia’s cabinet said in a statement after an emergency meeting.
Meanwhile Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has now pledged support for Somalia over the ongoing row on the sea access deal Ethiopia signed with Somaliland.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, had a phone call with Mr Sisi, who pledged “Egypt’s firm position to stand by Somalia and support its security and stability.”
Mr Sisi’s spokesman Ahmed Famy said on Tuesday, that the two leaders also discussed “regional developments” and bilateral relations.