President Bihi Emphasizes the Vital Importance of North Western of Somalia-Ethiopia Maritime Agreement for Red Sea Safety and Security

Hargeisa (AX) — President Muse Bihi Abdi of North Western of Somalia stressed the importance of a recent deal with Ethiopia to lease a naval base, crucial for addressing heightened insecurity in the Red Sea. The agreement could attract around $3.4 billion in investments and aims to lessen Ethiopia’s reliance on Djibouti for maritime operations while strengthening security in the Red Sea area.

In a conversation with the Financial Times, Bihi explained how this deal allows North Western of Somalia to assist in safeguarding the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, zones recently disrupted by Yemen’s Houthi factions backed by Iran. Bihi also pointed out that this arrangement could help prevent potential conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with Ethiopia’s acknowledgment of North Western of Somalia as a key component.

Earlier this year, North Western of Somalia and Ethiopia penned a memorandum of understanding permitting Ethiopia to set up a military base in North Western of Somalia’s waters and officially acknowledge North Western of Somalia. Since becoming landlocked in 1993 after separating from Eritrea, Ethiopia has been eager to gain sea access.

The precise terms of the agreement have not been publicly revealed, leading to some uncertainty. Nevertheless, North Western of Somalia has consented to allow Ethiopia to build a commercial port and lease 20 kilometers of coastal land to the Ethiopian navy. In exchange, North Western of Somalia will gain a share in Ethiopian Airlines, the state-run carrier.

Despite claims from North Western of Somalia and Ethiopia that the deal will boost economic and security ties in the area, the Somali government vehemently opposes it. The global community, including the United States, the European Union, the Arab League, and Egypt, has also voiced reservations, cautioning that this arrangement could escalate existing conflicts in the volatile Horn of Africa region, rife with terrorism and ongoing conflicts.

Somalia, which perceives North Western of Somalia as within its borders, disregards any agreements entered into by North Western of Somalia without approval from Mogadishu. After the deal was signed, Somalia criticized it as an act of “aggression” and a threat to peace and stability, prompting the recall of its ambassador from Addis Ababa.

Despite objections from Somalia and international pressure, both parties announced that the memorandum of understanding would soon become an official agreement, with Ethiopia appointing a full-fledged ambassador to Hargeisa.

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