Somalia expels Ethiopian ambassador amid row over Somaliland port deal


SOMALIA – Somalia has reportedly expelled the Ethiopian ambassador from the country and ordered the closure of two consulates.

It accused Ethiopia of infringing on Somalia’s “sovereignty and internal affairs.”
Somalia also recalled its ambassador from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, for “comprehensive consultations.”

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Nebiyu Tedla, told Reuters news agency that the government did not have information on the matter.

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

Its independence had not been internationally recognised and Somalia condemned the deal as an attack on its sovereignty.

Read more: Ethiopia becomes Africa’s latest country to default on debts, fails to redeem $33 million ’coupon’

In January, Ethiopia signed a deal with Somaliland to lease a 20-kilometre (12 miles) strip of coastline, so it could build a navy base.

The deal was reportedly not legally binding, though it was seen as a statement of intent and could lead to a treaty imposing obligations on those parties who had signed.

In exchange, Ethiopia reportedly told Somaliland it would offer it possible recognition in the future – which angered Somalia.

Somaliland seceded from Somalia more than 30 years ago, but was not recognised by the African Union (AU) or the UN as an independent state.

Following this deal, Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, launched a diplomatic campaign and travelled to Eritrea and Egypt- two countries with fraught relations with Ethiopia.

Somalia demanded a public reversal of the deal by Ethiopia but this had not happened.

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

Earlier this week, Ethiopian delegates met officials from the semi-autonomous Somali province of Puntland, which had 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 had ordered to close are in Hargeisa and Garowe, the capitals of Somaliland and Puntland, respectively.

The prospect of armed clashes between the two countries seemed unlikely at this point.

Ethiopia is one of the countries contributing soldiers to an AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which complicates the situation.

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