The military commanders of Ethiopia and Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland on Monday met in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
The two men discussed military cooperation amid an escalation in tensions between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa after landlocked Ethiopia signed a deal with Somaliland that will give it access to the sea, through the Red Sea port of Berbera.
According to a statement issued by the Ethiopian military, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Chief of Staff Field Marshal Birhanu Jula and General Nuh Ismail Tani, chief of staff of the Somaliland Armed Forces “discussed possible ways to work together on military cooperation.”
Somalia has rejected Ethiopia’s Red Sea port deal with Somaliland, calling it “illegitimate,” a threat to good neighborliness and a violation of its sovereignty. The east African country also recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia after the deal was announced.
The Ethiopian government defended its decision to sign the deal without Mogadishu’s approval, saying the agreement with Somaliland “will affect no party or country.” The deal effectively gives Ethiopia the opportunity to obtain a permanent and reliable naval base and commercial maritime service in the Gulf of Aden.
Ethiopia lost its Red Sea ports in the early 1990s after the Eritrean War of Independence, which lasted from 1961 to 1991. Thereafter, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, leading to the establishment of two separate nations.
The separation resulted in Ethiopia losing direct access to the Red Sea and key ports.