Somalia lashes out at Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal

Somalia’s cabinet says pact allowing Ethiopia to use Red Sea port of Berbera endangers the region’s stability.

A ship is docked at the Berbera port in Somalia, May 17, 2015
Somalia insists that Somaliland remains part of its territory [File: Feisal Omar/Reuters]

Somalia has lashed out at a port deal signed by Ethiopia with the breakaway Somaliland.

Following an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the Somali cabinet said the agreement allowing Ethiopia to use the Red Sea port of Berbera is null and void.

Mogadishu also said it was recalling its ambassador to Ethiopia for deliberations, claiming that the deal endangers the region’s stability.

Landlocked since 1991, Ethiopia has relied on neighbouring Djibouti for its help in enabling most of its maritime trade. But tension has been simmering around the Horn of Africa as Addis Ababa has pushed for improved access to a seaport.

Monday’s agreement, signed in Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi, would clear the way for Ethiopia to set up commercial marine operations, giving it access to a leased military base on the Red Sea, Redwan Hussien, Abiy’s security adviser, said.

The agreement also included recognising Somaliland as an independent nation in due course. Somaliland would also receive a share of state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, according to Redwan.

“Ethiopia’s step … endangers the stability and peace of the region,” Somalia’s cabinet said in a statement after the emergency meeting.

Since Eritrea gained independence in 1991, Ethiopia has been landlocked. That has left Africa’s second most populous country relying on neighbouring Djibouti for most of its maritime trade.

Somaliland has not gained widespread international recognition despite declaring autonomy from Somalia in 1991. Somalia insists Somaliland remains its territory.

Last week, the Somali National News Agency (SONNA) said Somalia and Somaliland had agreed to restart talks to resolve their disputes following mediation efforts led by Djibouti.

The deal comes months after Abiy said the country should assert its right to access the Red Sea, rousing regional concern.

Source: News Agencies