Egypt vows to protect Somalia amid tensions with Ethiopia

Egypt and Somalia have reaffirmed their alliance and condemned Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland that would give it access to the Red Sea and a naval base.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has expressed his solidarity with Somalia and denounced Ethiopia’s deal with Somaliland that would grant it access to the Red Sea and allow it to establish a naval base.

El-Sisi made the remarks at a joint press conference with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who visited Cairo on Sunday for bilateral talks. The two leaders discussed the security and stability of the Horn of Africa region, as well as the cooperation between their countries in various fields.

El-Sisi said that Egypt would not tolerate any threat to Somalia or its territorial integrity, and warned Ethiopia not to test Egypt’s resolve or harm its interests.

“We will not allow anyone to threaten Somalia or come near Somalia. I am saying this very clearly, don’t test Egypt and try to threaten its brothers, especially if our brothers asked us to be with them,” El-Sisi said.

He also rejected the agreement that Ethiopia signed with Somaliland earlier this month, which would give the landlocked country access to the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden for 50 years. He said that the deal was a violation of international law and the sovereignty of Somalia, which does not recognize Somaliland as an independent state.

Somaliland declared its secession from Somalia in 1991, following the outbreak of a civil war that plunged the country into chaos. The self-proclaimed republic has its own government and institutions, but lacks international recognition. Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory and has repeatedly called for its reunification.

Somalia’s president, who also met with the head of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb during his visit to Egypt, said that his country had a vital stake in the Red Sea and would not allow any foreign intervention in its waters.

“Somalia is privileged to have a large geopolitical stake in it (the Red Sea) and will not allow an inch of this territory to be seized by another state without a consent of the Somali sovereign state,” he said. He added that Somalia was committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and the development of the region, and thanked Egypt for its support and assistance.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, defended its deal with Somaliland, saying that it was a purely economic arrangement that aimed to enhance its trade and connectivity with the rest of the world. Ethiopia’s main outlet to the sea is currently through the port of Djibouti, which handles most of its imports and exports.

“It isn’t annexation or assumption of sovereignty over the territory of any state,” Redwan Hussien, national security adviser to the prime minister of Ethiopia, said in a post on X, a social media platform. He also said that Ethiopia respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia, and hoped to strengthen its relations with both Somalia and Somaliland.

The deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland comes amid a long-standing dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a massive hydroelectric project that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River.

Egypt fears that the dam will reduce its share of the Nile water, which is vital for its agriculture and population. Ethiopia, however, argues that the dam will boost its power generation and development, and that it will not harm the downstream countries.

The three countries involved in the negotiations — Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan — have failed to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, despite several rounds of talks mediated by the African Union and other parties. The latest talks in January ended in a deadlock, with each side blaming the other for the lack of progress.

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