Seylac(Mogadishu24)-Somaliland leaders have collectively opposed Ethiopia’s claim to access the sea through any means and their assertion of having controlled Saylac during the pre-colonial period.

These leaders, including the Deputy President, ministers, members of parliament, and senators from the Somaliland administration, engaged in a week-long discussion with the communities living in Saylac.

Following these meetings, they jointly held a media briefing on Tuesday, where they released a statement and discussed issues related to Ethiopia’s port claims, as revealed by the Ethiopian government.

Somaliland’s Deputy President, Abdirahman Saylici, stated that Somaliland would not permit any sweeping claims but would welcome discussions for investment.

“We are here to discuss the issue of Saylac and Ethiopia’s claim. We want to make it clear that Somaliland will not allow anyone to claim its land or port without following the proper diplomatic procedures,” he said.

He added, “We welcome investment in constructing a port in Saylac and participating in ownership, but the claim to Somaliland’s land will not be tolerated.”

Mr. Mohamud Hassan Sa’ad, the Somaliland Minister of Trade, emphasized Somaliland’s readiness for talks with Ethiopia concerning investment stakes in the port, in accordance with diplomatic laws.

“Usually, there are investment stakes in ports, such as individuals who have invested with us in the Berbera Port. However, there are laws that govern the investment process and contracts that are signed. Somaliland accepts investments and stake ownership following the correct processes,” stated Mr. Sa’ad, Somaliland’s Trade Minister.

“We must understand that Ethiopia is not following these correct procedures but wants to be granted land to establish its own port. Our land is not given away so easily. We offered Ethiopia a stake in the Berbera Port, but it failed to meet the financial requirements for the stake. Now, Ethiopia wants Saylac to build its own port, but we cannot relinquish part of our land,” he added.

Dr. Ahmed Adan Buuhane, Somaliland’s Minister of Planning, underscored the longstanding relationship between Ethiopia and Somaliland and encouraged all parties to engage in constructive discussions.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with Ethiopia dating back 30 years. Now, we need to continue our friendly and mutually beneficial relationships rather than engaging in confrontational talks and claims that could lead to conflicts and wars. We are saying that, as far as the Ethiopia issue is concerned, we have addressed the necessity for peaceful and prosperous negotiations,” stated Dr. Ahmed, Somaliland’s Minister of Planning.

This decision from Somaliland leaders came two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed that Ethiopia, being the most populous East African country, has the right to access the sea by any means.

He stated that access to the sea is “an existential matter for Ethiopia” and that Ethiopians should start discussing the Red Sea.

“If we don’t talk about the Red Sea issues, we will as much not talk about wheat, green legacy, tax collection…[if we have accomplished all these] and lose it due to [not discussing] the Red Sea, it’s meaningless. So let’s discuss it” said Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia Prime Minister.

The prime minister’s remarks sparked heated debates and speculations over the past two weeks among online communities in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.

The Ethiopian government also asserted its control over parts of northern Somalia, particularly the Saylac region, during the pre-colonial period, claiming access to the sea through this region.

Last week, the Eritrean government announced that it had suspended official maritime bilateral talks to grant landlocked Ethiopia access to the sea.

In an official statement released by the Ministry of Information, the Eritrean government stated that discussions regarding the sea issue have become overly extensive.

“Discourses – both actual and presumed – on water, access to the sea, and related topics floated in the recent times are numerous and excessive indeed. The affair has perplexed all concerned observers,” the statement from Eritrea’s ministry of information read.

The Eritrean government has affirmed that it will not engage in discussions related to sea access and has urged the parties involved not to respond in a way that escalates the situation.

“In the event, the Government of Eritrea repeatedly reiterates that it will not, as ever, be drawn into such alleys and platforms. The Government of Eritrea further urges all concerned not to be provoked by these events,” the statement added.

Ethiopia has recently increased its involvement in regional issues, focusing on signing agreements with its neighbouring countries to access natural resources like the sea.

Earlier this month, finance ministers from Horn of African countries approved the completion of the Djibouti-Addis corridor, which will cost $750 million, during the 18th Horn of Africa Initiative ministerial meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, along with Djibouti, South Sudan, and Uganda, signed an agreement on the finalization of the Djibouti-Addis-Juba-Kampala corridor during the 9th Single Window Conference held in Djibouti last month.

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