Ethiopia will 'not pursue interests through war', PM Abiy says

Thursday October 26 2023

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during the 116th celebration of Ethiopian Defense Force day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 26, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed insisted on Thursday that Ethiopia would not pursue its interests "through war" after previous remarks about seeking access to the Red Sea raised regional concerns.

"There are fears that Ethiopia may carry out an invasion after our recent strong demand for access to the sea," Abiy told thousands of troops in Addis Ababa for National Army Day.

"I want to assure that Ethiopia will not pursue its interests through war. We are committed to mutual interest through dialogue and negotiation."

Earlier this month, Abiy said in a televised speech that landlocked Ethiopia "is a nation whose existence was tied to the Red Sea" and that it needed access to a port.

Read: Ethiopia’s quest for sea access rattles Eritrea

"If we plan to live together in peace, we have to find a way to mutually share from each other in a balanced manner," he said.


The remarks aroused concerns among observers, particularly against a backdrop of apparent tensions with Eritrea.

Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country with around 120 million people, lost its coastline after Eritrea formally declared independence in 1993 following a three-decade war.

It had enjoyed direct access to a port in Eritrea until the two countries went to war in 1998-2000 and since then, it has relied largely on Djibouti for imports and exports. 

Abiy won a Nobel Prize in 2019 for his rapprochement the previous year with Eritrea, whose troops later fought alongside Ethiopian government forces in the brutal two-year war in Tigray.

Read: Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel Peace Prize

"Ethiopia has never been defeated and will not be defeated in the future," Abiy said on Thursday, adding: "Ethiopia has never invaded any country and will not do so in the future."

"The Ethiopian army does not aim to attack and invade others, but to defend the country."