News: US calls for dialogue to de-escalate tensions following Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU

Addis Abeba – The US State Department has called for diplomatic dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the Horn of Africa following a “historic”  memorandum of understanding between Ethiopia and Somaliland granting Ethiopia a sea access in return of international recognition for Somaliland.

The State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, addressing questions regarding the US position on the agreement during a press briefing on Wednesday said that the US is concerned by the reports from the region.  “We join other partners in expressing our serious concern as well about the resulting spike in tensions in the Horn of Africa,” he said. 

He reaffirmed the United States’ acknowledgment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia, as defined “within its 1960 borders”.

Further probed on whether the U.S. believes the deal should be rescinded, the spokesperson refrained from a direct answer, reiterating the call for diplomatic engagement. “We urge all stakeholders to engage in diplomatic dialogue.”

Meanwhile, the African Union Commission, through Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, has urged Ethiopia and Somalia to “refrain from any action that unintentionally may lead to a deterioration of the good relations between the two neighboring Eastern African countries.” 

The Chairperson stressed in a statement that “the imperative to respect unity, territorial integrity and full sovereignty of all African Union member states including Federal Republic of Somalia and Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia.”

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ethiopia and Somaliland, which could grant Ethiopia sea access in exchange for supporting Somaliland’s quest for international recognition, has been rejected by Somalia.

Following an emergency cabinet meeting on 02 January 2024, the country declared the MoU “null and void”, and recalled its Ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations. Additionally, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud reiterated to the Somalia Federal Parliament the country’s stance on its territorial inviolability. Somalia views the deal as an infringement on its territorial integrity, considering Somaliland as an integral part of its territory. 

The Ethiopian government has since released a statement indicating that the MoU includes a clause for an “in-depth assessment” of Somaliland’s recognition efforts, emphasizing Ethiopia’s commitment to peaceful and mutually beneficial solutions. 

The European Union, the Arab league, and IGAD have all expressed concerns and called for calm and restraint among the involved parties.

The European Union has reminded parties of the importance of respecting the unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia. The EU’s statement emphasized that adherence to these principles is “key for the peace and stability of the entire Horn of Africa region.”

IGAD, while not specifically mentioning the MoU, stated that it is “diligently monitoring” the situation and recognizes “the potential implications for regional stability.” The Arab League however condemned the MoU and expressed solidarity with the Government of Somalia. AS

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