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Türkiye mediating talks between two East African nations

The Turkish foreign ministry has initiated negotiations between Somalia and Ethiopia to resolve a port deal conflict

Somalia and Ethiopia have agreed a peaceful resolution to diplomatic tensions that arose when Addis Ababa signed a port access agreement with breakaway Somaliland earlier this year, the Turkish government, which is acting as a mediator, announced on Monday.

Tensions between the two East African nations have been high since January 1, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland’s president, Muse Bihi Abdi, signed a deal for 20km (12 miles) of coastline around the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden to be leased to Addis Ababa.

The 50-year agreement allowed the landlocked nation to access the Red Sea for commercial purposes, as well as to build a marine force base. Somaliland’s president has said Ethiopia would formally recognize the “Republic of Somaliland” in exchange for its coastline.

Somalia, which considers Somaliland part of its territory despite the region’s de facto independence in 1991, has condemned the pact as a land grab and a violation of its territorial integrity. In April, Mogadishu expelled Ethiopian Ambassador Muktar Mohamed Ware and summoned its envoy to Addis Ababa. It also ordered the closure of Ethiopian consulates in Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, which the leaders of both territories opposed.

Abiy, whose country has relied on Djibouti for the majority of its maritime trade for more than three decades, has described the agreement as critical to Ethiopia’s economic needs. He has, however, denied claims by Mogadishu, backed by Egypt, that his government is attempting to seize Somali lands.

Mogadishu has previously rejected an African Union proposal for mediation in the dispute, insisting that resolution is only possible if its landlocked neighbor cancels the “illegal” maritime treaty with the “Somaliland administration.”

It also deemed Kenya’s proposed regional maritime treaty, designed to defuse the escalating conflict, “completely unfounded.” The Kenyan government announced its proposal in April, stating that, if approved, it would provide “stable and predictable access to maritime resources” to Ethiopia and other landlocked Horn of Africa states.

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However, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that the Somali foreign minister, Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, and his Ethiopian counterpart, Taye Atske Selassie, had agreed to pursue dialogue to resolve “their issues and ensuring regional stability” following initial talks on Monday.

The officials engaged in a “candid, cordial, and forward-looking exchange concerning their differences and explored perspectives towards addressing them within a mutually acceptable framework” during talks hosted in Ankara by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, according to the ministry.

The parties also agreed to hold another round of talks in Ankara on September 2, according to separate statements from Ankara and Mogadishu.

July 02, 2024 at 03:41PM

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