May 30, 2024


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Somalia expels Ethiopian ambassador amid dispute over Somaliland port deal

Somalia expels Ethiopian ambassador amid dispute over Somaliland port deal

  • By Kalkidan Yebeltal and Danai Nesta Kubimba
  • BBC News, Addis Ababa and London

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Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the port deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland

Somalia expelled the Ethiopian ambassador from the country and ordered the closure of two consulates.

It accused Ethiopia of violating “Somalia's sovereignty and internal affairs.”

Somalia also recalled its ambassador from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to hold “comprehensive consultations.”

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebiu Tedla told Reuters news agency that the government has no information in this regard.

The expulsion highlights escalating diplomatic tensions in the region following Ethiopia's landlocked port agreement with the self-declared republic of Somaliland earlier this year.

Its independence was not recognized internationally, and Somalia condemned the agreement, describing it as an attack on its sovereignty.

In January, Ethiopia signed an agreement with Somaliland to lease a 20-kilometre (12-mile) coastal strip, so it can build a naval base.

The agreement is not legally binding, although it is viewed as a statement of intent and can lead to a treaty that imposes obligations on the parties that sign it.

In return, Ethiopia reportedly informed Somaliland that it would offer it possible recognition in the future, which angered Somaliland.

Somaliland separated from Somalia more than 30 years ago, but has not been recognized by the African Union or the United Nations as an independent country.

In the wake of this deal, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched a diplomatic campaign and traveled to Eritrea and Egypt – two countries with tense relations with Ethiopia.

Somalia demanded that the agreement be publicly annulled by Ethiopia, but this did not happen.

Somalia described the agreement as an act of aggression, adding that it was an “obstacle to peace and stability.”

Earlier this week, Ethiopian delegates met with officials from Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, which has difficult relations with the central government.

Puntland said this year it would operate as a functionally independent state amid a dispute over Somali constitutional changes.

The two Ethiopian consulates that Somalia ordered closed are located in Hargeisa and Garowe, the capitals of Somaliland and Puntland, respectively.

The possibility of armed clashes between the two countries seems unlikely at this stage. Ethiopia is one of the countries contributing soldiers to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which further complicates the situation.

There are already concerns that the Islamist group Al-Shabaab may use tensions between the two countries to recruit fighters and increase security threats.

Escalating the dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia will only worsen the situation.

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