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Somalia expels Ethiopian ambassador, closes consulates over port deal

Two Somali officials on Thursday announced that their country has expelled the Ethiopian ambassador and closed a consulate in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland and another in the breakaway region of Somaliland, following rising tensions over a port deal.

The dispute stems from Ethiopia, a landlocked country with no access to waterways, agreeing on January 1 to a memorandum of understanding to lease a 20-kilometer stretch of coastline in the breakaway region of Somaliland, a northern region that Somalia says is part of its territory despite having been self-governing since 1991.

Ethiopia justified the move, saying it wanted to build a naval base there and in return offered possible recognition of Somaliland – a deal the Somali government has rejected.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in February that his country would “defend itself” if Ethiopia went ahead with the deal.

Somalia on February 22 announced a defense agreement with Turkey that includes support for the East African nation’s maritime assets, which seeks to deter Ethiopia’s access to the sea through Somaliland.

Following its approval by the cabinet, Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre hailed the signing of the agreement as a “historic day for the country”.

“Somalia will have a real ally, friend and brother on the international scene,” he said.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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