Ethiopia upgrades consulate in Somaliland to full-fledged embassy

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ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia has reportedly upgraded its consulate in Hargeisa, the regional administrative capital of the Somaliland region, to a full-fledged embassy, which could escalate the existing conflict with Somalia.

Ali Mohamed Hassan, alias Ali Marehaan, the minister for information and culture in Somaliland, said Ethiopia had confirmed the new status of relations with Somaliland, adding that this is the 'process towards recognition of Somaliland'.

Over the weekend, Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi hinted at the development, as the region celebrated its 33rd independence day. Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but since then, it has never been recognized internationally.

In an interview with the BBC, Ali Hassan Mohamed said the decision by Ethiopia had been announced by Muse Bihi Abdi, adding that the two parties shall recognize each other as sovereign states. Ethiopia is yet to openly comment on the matter.

"Upgrading of the Ethiopian representative office in Somaliland to a fully-fledged one was officially [a piece] of bonafide information since it was revealed by none other than the President himself in his speech to the nation during the most important date of the government calendar,” he said.

Ethiopia signed an agreement with Somaliland which would see it get over 20 kilometers of the Red Sea for the construction of a Naval Base and port. In return, Addis Ababa vowed to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign country contrary to international laws.

Although Ethiopia is yet to confirm, in the recent appointments of Ambassadors announced by Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde last week, Ethiopia’s envoy to Hargeisa, Delil Kedir Bushra, was included among the names of Ambassadors. Delil Kedir served as Ethiopia’s envoy to Somaliland since March last year.

The news of the consular upgrade surfaced despite a decision by Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to give Ethiopia’s Ambassador Muktar Mohamed Ware 72 hours to leave Mogadishu, and announce the Consulates General in Hargeisa and Garowe, the capital cities of Somaliland and Puntland, respectively, to be closed “within seven (7) days.”

Both Hargeisa and Garowe rejected Somalia’s decision and said it bears no impact on their relations with Addis Ababa. Somaliland and Puntland vowed to work closely with Ethiopia on matters of development, ruling out warning from Somalia.

In addition to the information on the consular upgrade, Minister Ali Hassan Mohamed also commented on the 01 January Memorandum of Understanding between Ethiopia and Somaliland and said that the MoU “was right on course and would be implemented duly and in due [course] as per procedural international treaties.”

Somaliland maintains that implementation of the MoU is in the final stages but Ethiopia has remained silent, following reprisals from members of the international community. Somalia insists that Ethiopia must withdraw the agreement for any meaningful discussions to take place.

GAROWE ONLINE

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