Somali foreign minister says will never accept Ethiopia’s ‘attempt’ to annex territory

Somalia would never accept an attempt to annex a part of its territory, the country’s acting minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation said on Friday, commenting on a sea access deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland. 

Ever since Ethiopia struck the deal with Somaliland on Jan. 1, ties between the two neighboring countries have worsened. The agreement is said to give Ethiopia the right to build a port in Somaliland in exchange for recognition.

Ali Omar Balad, in an exclusive interview with Anadolu on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Friday, said they expected building better relations with Ethiopia after years of disputes, but the agreement dashed all hopes.

“I mean, that is something that we will not accept. And this is something Somali will never accept. Somalia and Ethiopia have enough trouble in the past. I hope we will not go back that state, Somalia will never ever accept such an attempt to, annex part of Somalia. If Ethiopia wants to have a commercial access, we are more than willing,” Balad said.

“If Ethiopia wants to comply with international rules and regulations, there are a number of international regulations that will oversee the way the landlocked countries access to the sea,” he added. 

Balad also made it clear that the recent defense and economic cooperation deal signed with Türkiye had nothing to do with the crisis with Ethiopia.

Instead, he said, Ankara would make a good mediator between the two countries, saying it has good relations with Addis Ababa.

“We need to find a way to secure our maritime … we need to find a way to build a maritime security forces that will enable us to secure our maritime resources. Türkiye is helping us to build a maritime security force,” he said.

“In order to build the maritime security, you need cost, it needs a lot of economic expenditure. That’s what we call defense and economic cooperation,” the minister said, adding that the deal would mutually benefit both countries and “has no relation with the crisis with Ethiopia.”

– Arms embargo, fight against Al-Shabaab

On lifting of arms embargo on Somalia in December, Balad said the UN Security Council’s decision has positively impacted the country’s fight against the terror group Al-Shabaab. The embargo was first placed on the East African country in 1992.

“There are a number of partners who would like to help Somalia in terms of military, but in the past were hesitant because of the embargo. So we’re hopeful that now that has been removed, and also additional weapons that were not available for Somalia in the past will be available,” he said.

Somalia had long asked for the arms embargo to be removed so it could beef up its forces to take on the terrorists, who have attacked government forces since 2006.

Balad said Somalia, under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who came to power in May 2022, is fighting Al-Shabaab terrorism in three stages.

“So, he came up with a comprehensive plan, which is we need to continue to fight … but fighting alone is not sufficient, [and] we have to do additional steps,” he said.

He said measures taken were to minimize Al-Shabaab’s revenue collection and freezing their bank accounts; delegitimizing their ideology through a decree by top Islamic scholars, as well as recruiting additional military forces.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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