PM lashes out at Mogadishu for “spreading lies” despite talks in Ankara

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) lashed out at the Somali government for “refusing to engage in dialogue” to put an end to the diplomatic tensions that have marred relations between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa over the last six months.

During his address to Parliament on July 4, 2024, the Prime Minister said that the dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia, which arose following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he signed with Somaliland President Muse Bihi in January, is easily solvable if only Somalia’s leaders were willing to sit down for talks.

“It would take an hour-long flight to sit and discuss. If only Somali leaders were willing to sit for talks instead of going from country to country accusing Ethiopia,” said the PM.

During the address, he highlighted the critical importance that sea access holds for Ethiopia’s burgeoning population and economy. Abiy told MPs the deal with Somaliland was signed after Mogadishu refused to partake in talks with his administration.

“We respect Somalia’s sovereignty. Access to the sea is essential for Ethiopia’s growing economy and population,” he said. “The MoU we signed with Somaliland came after all neighboring countries, including the Somali government, rejected our requests. In fact, the Somali government refused to engage in dialogue with us.”

He assured lawmakers that his administration has no intention of harming Somalia, asserting instead it has “empowered Somalia as a nation.”

“Ethiopia respects Somalia’s sovereignty. However, any deal between Somaliland and Ethiopia is not Somalia’s business,” said the PM. “If Somalia is concerned about the MoU, it can be resolved through a one-hour discussion. But Somalia has chosen to spread lies.”

Abiy criticized Mogadishu for seeking international support in its stance against the deal instead of resolving the problems through direct talks. He suggested the funds spent on the efforts could have been put to better use on development projects in Somalia.

The PM emphasized the mutual benefits of regional cooperation, noting that Ethiopia’s prosperity would positively impact its neighbors.

During the MoU signing ceremony on January 1, 2024, Abiy highlighted the agreement as a crucial diplomatic success that would provide Ethiopia with vital access to the sea. However, the deal has not made much progress since and regional tensions have escalated as Mogadishu rejects the agreement as a violation of its sovereignty.

The government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has repeatedly condemned the deal, declaring it “null and void” and sought international support to contest its terms. Mogadishu has also reached out to various international organizations, including the AU, UN, and the Arab League, to mediate and address the issue.

Earlier this week, the Turkish government took the lead in facilitating talks between the governments of Somalia and Ethiopia.

In the initial round of discussions held in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on July 01, 2024, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Taye Atskeselassie, and his Somali counterpart, Ahmed Moalim Fiqi, agreed on the need to resolve their ongoing diplomatic disagreement.

Following the talks, Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry released a joint statement saying that the Somali and Ethiopian ministers had “reiterated their commitment to the peaceful resolution of differences, and expressed their gratitude to Turkiye for its mediation efforts and constructive contributions.”

According to the statement, both national representatives agreed to continue the ongoing dialogue with the aim of resolving their issues and ensuring regional stability.

A statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates the ministers will meet for a second round of discussions in Ankara in September following “open and friendly talks” in the first round.

Given the latest developments, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud remarked that there is no sign Ethiopia is rescinding the contentious MoU with Somaliland.

“[There are] no indications so far that they [Ethiopia] are turning back from that path,” he said.

https://www.thereporterethiopia.com/40956/