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Somalia rebuffs Ethiopia’s bid to gain direct access to Red Sea Port


By Simon Marks
Wednesday October 18, 2023

Somalia rejected an appeal from Ethiopia to enter into negotiations with a view to granting it access to a Red Sea port.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week warned that his country’s lack of access to a harbor is a potential source of future conflict and called for efforts to address the issue in order to safeguard regional stability. Ethiopia lost its direct access to the sea in 1993 when Eritrea gained independence after a three-decade war.

While Somalia is “highly committed” to enhancing peace, security, trade and integration, it isn’t interested in providing access to a strategic asset such as a port, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Omar said in a text message. “Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — land, sea and air — as enshrined in our constitution, is sacrosanct and not open for discussion.”

In a televised lecture on Oct. 13, Abiy said Ethiopia had “natural rights” to directly access the Red Sea, and if it was denied this “there will be no fairness and justice and if there is no fairness and justice, it’s a matter of time, we will fight.” He suggested his government could grant shares in its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in return for similar stakes in ports in neighboring countries

Eritrea described the prime minister’s comments as “excessive” and said “the affair has perplexed all concerned observers.”

Alexis Mohamed, senior adviser to Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, said Abiy’s position was a longstanding one albeit now delivered in a much more forward manner.

“Djibouti will wait for Ethiopia to propose a peaceful means to access the Red Sea, while recognising that Djibouti has always been open to have good relations with neighboring countries and notably Ethiopia,” he said by phone. He noted Djibouti’s openness to already provide access to Ethiopia’s navy.

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