Access to Red Sea 'strategic': Ethiopia rejects Egypt and AL statements on Somalia

Radwa ElSayed Hani , Thursday 18 Jan 2024

Ethiopia rebuffed on Thursday the statements of Egypt and the Arab League concerning Addis Ababa's contentious agreement with Somaliland, asserting that its access to the Red Sea is a "strategic matter," and nothing will dissuade it from pursuing it.

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Meles Alem. Photo: Ethiopian Foreign Ministry


According to Al-Ain news website, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Meles Alem said, "We reject the Arab League’s statement regarding the signing of an agreement with Somaliland," deeming it "inappropriate for member states."

Alem said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry's statement on Wednesday during the Arab League ministerial meeting is "not useful," given the historical relations between the two lcountries.

"We have never been a destabilising country in the region," the spokesperson noted, adding that Shoukry's statement is inaccurate, given Ethiopia's role in "promoting peace and security in the region."

During a press conference in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian official stressed that "over 120 million [Ethiopian] people cannot be strangled and prevented from reaching the Red Sea," referring to his landlocked nation.

On Wednesday, Shoukry said that Ethiopia has become a source of unrest in its regional surroundings, reasserting Egypt's unwavering support for Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Egyptian minister's remarks came during his participation in an extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, which was dedicated to supporting Somalia.

Shoukry highlighted Egypt's previous warnings against the dangers of Ethiopia's unilateral policies that violate international law and principles of good neighbourliness and aim to impose a fait accompli without regard for the interests of African governments and peoples.

In addition, Shoukry indicated that signing an agreement on access to the Red Sea between Ethiopia and the Somaliland region validates the Egyptian perspective on the adverse impact of such actions and policies on regional stability.

Somalia's response

Alem said there is no change in relations with Somalia yet.

He pointed out that nothing has changed in commercial relations and flights between Ethiopia and Somalia, adding that the current disagreements can be discussed with Somalia.

The Somali foreign ministry said on Thursday that there is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland, and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia. 

Mogadishu's comment comes after the African Union's conflict resolution body -- the African Union Peace and Security Commission (AUPSC) -- on Wednesday discussed the crisis and called on both countries "to exercise restraint, de-escalate and engage in meaningful dialogue towards finding a peaceful resolution."

"We welcome the affirmation of the AUPSC of the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of all member states of the African Union," the Somali foreign ministry said.

Somalia, which has appealed for international support, indicated through its foreign ministry that "on the basis of upholding that principle" Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has been violated by Ethiopia when it signed an illegal deal with Somaliland.

Under the 1 January deal, Somaliland agreed to lease 20 kilometres of its coast for 50 years to Ethiopia, which wants to set up a naval base and a commercial port in that area.

Somaliland has been seeking full statehood since claiming independence from Somalia in 1991, a move fiercely opposed by Mogadishu and not recognised internationally.

The Addis Ababa agreement gives landlocked Ethiopia long-desired access to the Red Sea, a key waterway for global trade.


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