African Union Joins US In Calling For Calm In Horn Of Africa

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The African Union and the US called on Ethiopia and Somalia to de-escalate tensions in a region that’s situated on the approach to a global shipping choke-point.

A diplomatic spat erupted this week when Ethiopia, the world’s most-populous landlocked nation, signed a pact with Somaliland, a breakaway enclave of Somalia, to give the nation access to the Red Sea. Somalia rejected the accord calling it “an act of aggression against Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Somaliland’s Council of Ministers issued “a stern warning” that it would take appropriate action against those who tried to disrupt or oppose the memorandum of understanding, it said in a statement.

The African Union and the US joined the European Union in weighing in on the dispute that’s brewing near a route that accounts for 12% of global trade — the Bab El-Mandeb strait, which leads to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. While the AU asked both parties to respect each other’s territorial integrity, the EU reminded Ethiopia of the importance of Somalia’s sovereignty and the US urged them to engage in dialog.

The AU Commission Chief Moussa Faki Mahamat called on “the two countries to refrain from any action that unintentionally may lead to a deterioration of the good relations between the two neighboring eastern African countries,” according to a statement on its website Wednesday.

The US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said “we join other partners in expressing our serious concern as well about the resulting spike in tensions in the Horn of Africa.” The US “recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia within its 1960 borders.”

The agreement announced in Addis Ababa on Monday, days after Somalia agreed to resume talks with Somaliland following years of deadlock, will grant Ethiopia a 50-year lease to establish a naval base and commercial maritime services on the strategically important Gulf of Aden. In exchange, Somaliland will get a stake in Ethiopian Airlines. Somaliland’s council of ministers said in the statement Wednesday, Ethiopia will also recognize its sovereignty. Ethiopia has said the government will make an “in-depth assessment” of whether it would grant recognition to the breakaway region.

(Updates with US comme

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