Somalia cancels Ethiopia's Red Sea deal with Somaliland

Agreement would have granted Ethiopia access to Gulf of Aden under 50-year lease

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud annulled the deal, which he said was illegal. AFP
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Somalia has cancelled a controversial deal between Somaliland, a breakaway region of the country of around 18 million, and landlocked Ethiopia that would have allowed Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea.

When the agreement was signed last week, it provoked fury in Somalia, which does not recognise Somaliland, which separated from the country in 1991 after a bloody insurgency in the 1980s, culminating in full-scale civil war.

Somalia said the deal represented a “blatant disregard for international norms” of its sovereignty and that Somaliland had no right to sign agreements with foreign countries.

Under the terms, Ethiopia would be allowed access to a 20-kilometre strip of coast in Somaliland in a 50-year lease around the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. Ethiopia would in return become the first country to recognise Somaliland as an independent nation.

Ethiopia currently has limited access to the sea, through a land corridor to Djibouti.

Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud officially annulled Ethiopia’s the agreement on Saturday evening.

Mr Mohamud declared the deal “illegal” in a post on X, formerly Twitter, while he signed a law to repeal it.

Somalia said the sea-access deal breaches its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The government announced it would defend and protect its autonomy and recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia for urgent consultation.

Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed has said Ethiopia's existence was "tied to the Red Sea" and if countries in the Horn of Africa "plan to live together in peace, we have to find a way to mutually share with each other in a balanced manner".

Updated: January 07, 2024, 4:17 PM