The army chiefs of landlocked Ethiopia and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland have held a significant meeting, discussing military co-operation as concern grows over a deal that could give Ethiopia a naval base on the Gulf of Aden.
Ethiopian National Defense Forces Chief Field Marshal Berhanu Jula and Somaliland Chief of the General Staff, Major General Nuh Ismail Tani signed an agreement on Monday, January 1, 2024 to give Ethiopia commercial and military access to the sea.
Somalia called it an act of aggression.
It considers Somaliland as part of its territory and has vowed to defend its sovereignty.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, seceded from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognized as an independent state by the international community.
Ethiopia’s Field Marshal Birhanu Jula discussed “possible ways to work together” with Somaliland’s Maj Gen Nuh Ismael Tani during a meeting in Addis Ababa on Monday, Ethiopia’s military said in a statement.
According to claims from both parties, Somaliland agreed to lease part of the coast to Ethiopia for a naval facility in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on January 1st.
Somaliland has said that in exchange Ethiopia would agree to recognise it as independent at some point in the future.
Ethiopia has not confirmed this and instead talked about making “an in-depth assessment towards taking a position regarding the efforts of Somaliland to gain recognition”.
Somalia sees the MoU as an assault on its territorial integrity. On Sunday, its President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asked people to prepare for the defence of the country.
Both the African Union and the United States have taken steps to defuse tensions.
Somalia’s allies have pledged their help, including Egypt and Turkey.
Official announcements made no direct mention of Ethiopia’s agreement with Somaliland, but the subject is likely to have come up.
According to Eritrea, the two presidents resolved to collaborate “with patience and constructive spirit while refraining from a re-active posture to various provocative agendas.”