No sea for Ethiopia without recognition, says Somaliland FM


HARGEIS, Somalia - The breakaway region of Somaliland insists it won't implement the controversial deal with Ethiopia until Addis Ababa officially recognizes it, which gives the conflict another dimension even before the agreement is actualized.

Ethiopia signed an agreement with Somaliland which gives it 20 kilometers of land in Somalia for a Naval base and possible port in exchange for recognition of Somaliland, leading to outrage from Mogadishu and several international partners.

Somaliland is still not recognized by any country. Western governments will not recognize it until African countries do, but the continent’s leaders have held off, following the African Union’s longstanding policy against redrawing national boundaries inherited from colonialists.

In an interview with the Observer, Somaliland’s foreign minister, Essa Kayd, said the port deal with Ethiopia will “legitimize our self-determination” and could spark a “domino effect” of other countries recognizing the territory, The Guardian reports.

“Recognition is what we have been fighting for all this time and it is the most important thing we can offer to the people of Somaliland,” Kayd said.

Full disclosure of the deal remains mysterious with neither side ready to make it public. Demonstrations have been rife in Somalia with thousands of citizens accusing Somaliland of trading the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

When it was struck, Somaliland’s president, Muse Bihi Abdi, said Ethiopia had agreed to grant official recognition in return for a 50-year lease of a stretch of coastline, which it will develop for “naval and commercial” purposes.

However, Ethiopia said it had only agreed to “make an in-depth assessment towards taking a position regarding the efforts of Somaliland to gain recognition”.

A Western diplomat briefed on the deal described it as a “memorandum of misunderstanding”. “Ethiopia insists they did not agree to recognize Somaliland,” the diplomat said.

Kayd said the deal is based on Ethiopia granting recognition to Somaliland: “Without that, nothing is going to happen.” He added that discussions had been progressing “for years”. “Ethiopia needs sea access and we need recognition, so you can see how these needs can be dealt with.”

Ethiopia became the world’s largest landlocked country in 1993 when Eritrea seceded along with its Red Sea coastline. In October, Abiy said this was a historic mistake that threatened Ethiopia’s existence, sparking fears of a war with Eritrea.

“In 2030 we are projected to have a population of 150 million,” Abiy said. “150 million people can’t live in a geographic prison.”

Several countries including the US, UK, China, and Turkey have disowned the deal while insisting on their unconditional support for the federal government of Somalia. Somalia recalled her ambassador to Ethiopia for 'consultation' after the deal was signed.


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