Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about the agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland on January 18.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud travelled to Qatar on Monday, engaging in what appeared to be a diplomatic shuttle, which comes amid Ethiopia’s expansionist ambitions bearing consequences for Somalia.
On January 1, landlocked Ethiopia signed an initial agreement with Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland to use its Red Sea port of Berbera. President of Somaliland Muse Bihi Abdi said that as part of the agreement, Ethiopia would also be the first country to recognise Somaliland as an independent nation.
Ethiopia’s Memorandum of Understanding with the breakaway region of Somaliland, offers 20 kilometres of the Red Sea in exchange for recognition. If the deal materialises, Ethiopia stands to control the land for the next 50 years.
Having secured assurances from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on protecting Somalia’s borders, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is now turning his attention to Qatar, another influential power in the Middle East on top of being a credible mediator in major political issues.
Sisi maintained on Sunday that Egypt would not tolerate any threat to Somalia. The remark is considered the strongest stance taken by Egypt on the matter, indicating the potential for Cairo to become involved in the dispute.
“Egypt will not allow anyone to threaten Somalia or affect its security,” Sisi said, speaking at a news conference with visiting Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
“Do not try Egypt, or try to threaten its brothers especially if they ask it to intervene,” he added. “My message to Ethiopia is that […] trying to seize a piece of land to control it is something no one will agree to.”
According to state media reports, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s visit to Doha is aimed to bolster bilateral relations between Somalia and Qatar across various mutually beneficial areas.
“During this visit, the president will engage in discussions with the Qatari leadership regarding recent developments in Somalia,” the statement read.
Qatari diplomacy has been notably constructive and impactful in mediating between various factions in Somalia, as well as in initiatives aimed at restoring diplomatic ties between Somalia and Kenya.
In 1991, Somaliland proclaimed its independence from Somalia, however, it has not garnered recognition from any nation.
The proposed lease of the port, seen as advantageous for landlocked Ethiopia and yet to be finalised, has provoked anger from Somalia.
A growing exchange of heated rhetoric, including Somalia’s threats of military action to thwart the deal, prompted the African Union to issue a call on January 17 for caution and the initiation of “meaningful dialogue.”
“There is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal MOU and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia,” Somalia’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on January 18.
Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about the agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland also on January 18 as heads of states convened to attempt to defuse a soaring diplomatic crisis.