Ethiopia's PM: Somalia is accusing us falsely around the world

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has for the first time spoken publicly about the emerging row between his country and neighbouring Somalia, a few days after a delegation from the two countries held a consultative meeting in Ankara.

In a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, Ahmed, who had conspicuously gone silent about the conflict, said Somalia has been falsely 'accusing' Ethiopia over attempts to 'grab' the Red Sea, noting that the matter can be solved amicably without involving external parties.

“It is very simple because we have no fight with the Somali government,” PM Abiy said, but instead, the Somali government “chose to go around and accuse us.”

“My advice is don’t waste money; we spend money when we go around countries,” he said in a direct message. “There is no need to go around other countries to accuse us when it is possible to come to us in Addis Abeba. We are ready for a discussion, he said, adding that the money can be better spent on “building a one km walkway, or one school in Mogadishu; the people will benefit” from that, he said.

Ahmed, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2019, said the two countries have coexisted peacefully for a long time, adding that Ethiopia has sacrificed for the peace and stability of Somalia. Ethiopia is a major security stakeholder in Somalia’s peacekeeping process.

Earlier this year, Ahmed defended the move by Ethiopia to sign a sea access Memorandum of Understanding with Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia. According to him, Ethiopia had approached many neighbours without a response.

The Premier also pushed back against accusations that his government is working to dismantle Somalia. “Ethiopia doesn’t want the disintegration of Somalia; it would not have sacrificed its children” if it wanted that.

“… Ethiopia has a question, it is difficult to be landlocked with an economy of this size. This is a national interest issue.”

Sticking to his initial argument on gaining direct access to the sea, Abiy repeated the Ethiopian government’s request is “access to the sea. This is a legitimate question. Just like any other commodity it should be addressed peacefully and with discussion. Ethiopia is ready to accept that”.

Under the agreement, Ethiopia would get 20 kilometers of the Red Sea for the construction of a naval base and port in exchange for recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state. The move irked Somalia, which termed the agreement as 'illegal'.

Over the weekend, Turkey started mediation talks between the two countries, but there was no immediate agreement. The two parties agreed to start the talks again in September, with Turkey also keen to spearhead the talks.

Somalia maintains that Somaliland remains part of her territory, noting that any infringement would be made by the full force of the law. Somalia had signed a defense pact with Turkey, which pledged to restore dignity within its territorial integrity.

GAROWE ONLINE

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