HomeTop StoriesSomalia expel Ethiopian ambassador over row over port deal with Somaliland

Somalia expel Ethiopian ambassador over row over port deal with Somaliland

Somalia has expelled the Ethiopian ambassador and ordered the closure of two consulates.

It accused Ethiopia of encroaching on Somalia’s “sovereignty and internal affairs”.

Somalia also recalled its ambassador from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for “comprehensive consultations”.

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebiyu Tedla told Reuters news agency that the government had no information on the matter.

The expulsion marks an escalation in diplomatic tensions in the region following Ethiopia’s landlocked port deal with the self-declared republic of Somaliland earlier this year.

The country’s independence has not been internationally recognized and Somalia condemned the deal as an attack on its sovereignty.

In January, Ethiopia signed an agreement with Somaliland to lease a twenty-kilometer-long coastline so the country could build a naval base.

The deal is not legally binding, but is seen as a declaration of intent and could lead to a treaty that imposes obligations on the parties that signed it.

In return, Ethiopia told Somaliland it would offer the country possible recognition in the future, angering Somalia.

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Somaliland seceded from Somalia more than thirty years ago, but is not recognized as an independent state by the African Union (AU) or the UN.

Following this agreement, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched a diplomatic campaign and traveled to Eritrea and Egypt, two countries with fraught relations with Ethiopia.

Somalia demanded a public rollback of the deal by Ethiopia, but this did not happen.

Somalia has described the deal as an act of aggression, adding that it was an “obstacle to… peace and stability”.

Earlier this week, Ethiopian delegates met with officials from the semi-autonomous Somali province of Puntland, which has difficult relations with the central government.

This year, Puntland said it would operate as a functionally independent state amid a dispute over Somali constitutional changes.

The two Ethiopian consulates that Somalia has ordered to close are located in Hargeisa and Garowe, the capitals of Somaliland and Puntland, respectively.

The prospect of armed clashes between the two countries seems unlikely at this point. Ethiopia is among the countries contributing soldiers to an AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, complicating the situation.

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There are already concerns that the Islamist group Al-Shabab could use tensions between the two countries to recruit fighters and increase security threats.

Escalations in the row between Somalia and Ethiopia could only worsen this.

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