Arab League chief slams Ethiopia-Somaliland accord

Wednesday January 17 2024

Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks to journalists during a past meeting. PHOTO | AFP


Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday condemned a maritime accord between Ethiopia and the separatist region of Somaliland, describing it as "a clear violation of international law".

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on January 1, Somaliland agreed to lease 20 kilometres (12 miles) of its coast for 50 years to land-locked Ethiopia, which indicated it wants to set up a naval base and a commercial port there.

The agreement has raised regional tensions, and the Arab League has supported the Somali government's rejection of the accord as a "violation of Somalia's sovereignty and its territorial integrity".

Read: US 'troubled' by Ethiopia, Somaliland deal

"The memorandum constitutes a blatant attack against Arab, African and international principles, and a clear violation of international law," Aboul Gheit told an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers Wednesday.

He also called on the international community to "prevent any action under any pretext that takes advantage of the fragility of domestic circumstances, or disrupts national dialogue".


Somaliland, a former British protectorate overlooking the Gulf of Aden, declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognised by the international community.

Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, has been seeking access to the sea ever since the Red Sea coastal region of Eritrea declared independence in 1993. 

Read: Ethiopia’s quest for sea access rattles Eritrea

Somaliland, with 4.5 million inhabitants and relative stability compared to Somalia, prints its own money and delivers its own passports.

But it remains isolated because of the lack of international recognition, preventing it from benefiting from its position on the Gulf of Aden, one of the most active sea routes in the world, leading to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.