Ethiopia-Somaliland Agreement: A Step Towards Red Sea Access and Political Recognition
Ethiopia and Somaliland have signed a preliminary agreement, marking a significant development in Ethiopia’s pursuit of Red Sea access and Somaliland’s quest for international recognition. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Addis Ababa, aiming to establish a multifaceted partnership.
Under the MoU, Ethiopia is set to lease 20 kilometers of coastline along the Red Sea from Somaliland, potentially including a marine force base. In a purported recording, Abdi indicated that Ethiopia will recognize Somaliland’s nationhood upon finalizing the agreement. This arrangement, yet to be officially confirmed by Ethiopia, would mark a significant shift, as Ethiopia has not previously officially recognized Somaliland.
The deal also entails Ethiopia’s use of the Berbera seaport for imports, a diversification from its primary reliance on Djibouti’s port. The MoU highlights the intention of both countries to strengthen their security, economic, and political ties and enhance regional integration and peace in the Horn of Africa.
The agreement has sparked concerns in Somalia, with federal lawmakers expressing apprehensions about territorial integrity. Despite Somaliland’s declaration of independence in 1991, it remains internationally recognized as part of Somalia. The Somali federal government, which has not yet commented on the deal, is set to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the implications.
This development comes shortly after a meeting between Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Abdi in Djibouti, where they agreed to resume talks. The Ethiopian-Somaliland agreement could have far-reaching implications for regional dynamics, especially considering Somaliland’s ongoing efforts for international recognition and Ethiopia’s strategic interests in the Red Sea region.