20231019 al sissi
Al Sissi to Ethiopia: “Do not try Egypt, or try to threaten its brothers especially if they ask it to intervene.” Image Credit: AP file

CAIRO: Egypt’s president said on Sunday it will not allow any threat to Somalia, after Ethiopia said it would consider recognising an independence claim by Somaliland in a deal that would give it access to a sea port.

The remarks by President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi were the strongest yet made on the issue by Egypt, which already has frosty relations with Ethiopia, and were a sign that Cairo may get involved in a dispute that has raised fresh tensions in the volatile Horn of Africa.

Click here to get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not won recognition from any country. The port lease deal, which was agreed earlier this month but not yet finalised, would be a boon to landlocked Ethiopia and has enraged Somalia.

“Egypt will not allow anyone to threaten Somalia or affect its security,” Al Sissi said, speaking at a news conference with visiting Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

“Do not try Egypt, or try to threaten its brothers especially if they ask it to intervene,” he added.

In a January 1 memorandum of understanding, Ethiopia said it would consider recognising Somaliland’s independence in return for the port access.

It would lease 20km (12 miles) of coastland around the port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden, for 50 years for military and commercial purposes.

Ethiopia’s current main port for maritime exports is in the neighbouring country of Djibouti.

“My message to Ethiopia is that ... trying to seize a piece of land to control it is something no one will agree to,” Al Sissi said, saying cooperation on development was a better strategy.

Representatives for Ethiopia did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his statements.

Egypt’s foreign minister last week called Ethiopia a source of instability in the region, which the country’s foreign ministry said was “irrelevant”.

Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia, which share use of the Nile River, have been tense for years over a major dam Ethiopia has built on the Blue Nile.