ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has played down fears of a war with Somalia over his quest for sea access for his landlocked country, saying Tuesday that Ethiopia is only interested in peace with its neighbor.
Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding with the breakaway region of Somaliland on Jan. 1. The document has not been made public, but Somaliland says Ethiopia agreed to recognize its independence in return for a naval port.
The deal has rattled Somalia, which asserts that Somaliland is part of Somalia. Somalia’s president has suggested he is ready to go to war with Ethiopia to prevent it from building a port there.
Addressing lawmakers on Tuesday, Abiy said he had “no intention” of going to war with Somalia.
“To ensure the peace of Somalia, thousands of Ethiopians have died in Somalia,” he said, a reference to Ethiopia’s troop contributions to the African Union peacekeeping mission fighting the extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia.
“We are dying in Somalia because the peace of Somalia is the peace of Ethiopia. The development of Somalia is the development of our country. We believe we are brothers,” Abiy said. “We don’t want to fight. We want to see a strong and prosperous Somalia that is a market for Ethiopian goods.”
Abiy also sought to allay Egyptian fears over the huge hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile. “We will share our resources, even in the future, but my hope is I expect them to accommodate our requests as well,” Abiy said.
Ethiopia says the mega dam is essential for its development and claims it will have no negative effect on downstream Sudan and Egypt, who fear it will impact their water supply. Practically all of Egypt’s 109 million people rely on Nile waters.
There have been several rounds of talks over the dam, but the sides have failed to reach an agreement to regulate its use. The latest negotiations were in December.