Ethiopia Secures Key Maritime Access: Signs Historic Port Agreement with Somaliland

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In a significant move aimed at expanding its maritime connectivity, Ethiopia has inked a “historic” agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland, granting the landlocked nation access to the vital Berbera port in Somalia. The deal, signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi, marks a strategic step for Ethiopia’s ambitions to diversify its sea access routes.

(Photo by ABDISHUKRI HAYBE / AFP) (Photo by ABDISHUKRI HAYBE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Berbera port, located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, provides a crucial gateway to the Red Sea and further north to the Suez Canal. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in Addis Ababa is viewed as a landmark development, offering Ethiopia a route to the sea, enhancing economic opportunities, and strengthening diplomatic ties.

Abiy Ahmed’s office described the agreement as one that “shall pave the way to realize the aspiration of Ethiopia to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to a seaport.” The pact is expected to contribute to the security, economic, and political partnership between Ethiopia and Somaliland.

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Ethiopia, a nation historically tied to the Red Sea, has faced challenges in accessing maritime routes after Eritrea seceded in 1993. The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea further complicated Ethiopia’s access to the coast, leading to a reliance on Djibouti for most of its trade.

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Redwan Hussein, Ethiopia’s national security adviser, shared that the agreement includes access to a leased military base on the Red Sea, emphasizing its significance for future generations. The details regarding the implementation timeline of the pact remain undisclosed.

Ethiopia’s move to secure access to the Berbera port aligns with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s commitment to assert the country’s right to the Red Sea, a stance he reiterated in a televised speech in October. The agreement is a crucial step forward for Ethiopia’s economic expansion and geopolitical positioning.

In 2018, Ethiopia acquired a 19 percent stake in the Berbera port, highlighting the strategic importance of the port for the nation’s trade and commerce. The development signals a paradigm shift in regional dynamics and underscores Ethiopia’s determination to overcome historical constraints, fostering new opportunities for economic growth and cooperation.

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