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Ethiopia

Hassan Sheikh ups the ante in Ethiopia port dispute

Somalia has signed a defence agreement with Turkey to protect its coastline and provide training and support to its naval force

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's promise that his country would 'defend itself' if neighbouring Ethiopia goes ahead with a controversial port deal with breakaway province Somaliland has further upped the ante in the bitter dispute between the two Horn of Africa countries.

Ethiopia struck an agreement with Somaliland in early January to lease 20km of coastline in Somaliland, where it has plans to set up a naval base, in exchange for possible recognition of Somaliland's statehood (AC Vol 65 No 2, Why Abiy and Muse signed a 'memorandum of misunderstanding').

The dispute was barely addressed by other leaders at the African Union summit in mid-February, despite ugly scenes when Hassan Sheikh found himself blocked by security guards in Addis Ababa when trying to enter the secure zone to access the summit.

Ahead of the gathering in the Ethiopian capital, the Somali foreign ministry stated that 'there is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal MoU and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia'.

Hassan Sheikh's government has the support of the United States and Europe, arguing that the port agreement could be used by Al Shabaab in its recruitment efforts.

However, on 19 February, the day after the AU summit concluded, Somalia signed its own defence agreement with Turkey, a 10-year deal under which Ankara will help defend Somalia's coastline and provide training and other assistance to its naval force.



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