An agreement reached between landlocked Ethiopia with the self-declared republic of Somaliland on Monday over sea access has drawn sharp criticism from neighboring Somalia.
Somaliland seceded from Somalia more than three decades ago, but the move is not recognized internationally.
Even though the details of Monday’s agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland have not been made public, a statement from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said the memorandum of understanding would pave the way to realize Ethiopia’s aspiration to secure sea access.
In a statement released after the signing of the MoU, Somaliland’s foreign ministry said that the historic agreement will ensure Ethiopia’s access to the sea for their naval forces, reciprocated by formal recognition of the Republic of Somaliland.
However, Ethiopia has not officially confirmed that the MoU included the formal recognition of the Republic of Somaliland.
On Tuesday, Somalia reacted angrily to the MoU and said it was recalling its ambassador to Ethiopia.
In a statement released by the government spokesman’s office, Somalia said it sees Somaliland as part of its territory.
It termed the agreement null and void and a violation of its sovereignty.
Somalia also wanted the UN Security Council and the African Union to discuss the issue.
“The Somali government recognizes Ethiopia’s actions as a blatant violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia,” read the statement issued by the Somali government on Tuesday.
“The Somali government, with the support of its people, is ready to defend, protect and preserve its sovereignty, dignity, territorial integrity, and social unity.”
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Ethiopia said it has a longstanding cooperation agreement with Somaliland, and that consultations on mutual benefits have been going on for months.
On Wednesday, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission Chairperson, called for calm and mutual respect to de-escalate the simmering tension between Ethiopia and Somalia.
He urged the two countries to refrain from any action that unintentionally may lead to a deterioration of the good relations between the two neighboring Eastern African countries.
“I urge the two brother countries to engage without delay in a negotiation process to settle their differences in the most constructive, peaceful and collaborative manner to consolidate and deepen their cooperation to serve peace and security in the region. I reaffirm that the African Union will stand strongly on their side to encourage an African solution to this new African tension,” Mahamat said.