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26 Oct, 2023 13:23

Ethiopia will not pursue interests through war – PM

The country’s demand for access to the sea does not mean it will launch an invasion, says Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopia will not pursue interests through war – PM

Ethiopia has never invaded any country and will not pursue its interests through war, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said, addressing concerns sparked by his request for Addis Ababa to gain access to the Red Sea.

There are fears that Ethiopia may carry out an invasion after our recent strong demand for access to the sea,” Abiy said in a speech to thousands of troops on the country’s 116th National Army Day on Thursday.

The prime minister told members of parliament in a televised speech days ago that the landlocked East African country has the right to own a port outlet, and that peace in the region is dependent on “balanced mutual sharing” with its neighbors.

He stated that while other countries were discussing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and other transboundary rivers for mutual benefit, Ethiopia had remained silent on the issue of its “existence.”

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country. Unlike its neighbors Eritrea and Djibouti, it has no direct access to the Red Sea, one of the world’s major trade crossroads.

Abiy said that while he has no desire to meddle in the affairs of neighbors, access to the sea is a necessity rather than a luxury for Ethiopia’s growing population. His remarks aroused concerns among some observers, given the history of tensions with Eritrea.

In response, the Eritrean government urged groups and individuals not to be provoked by “excessive” remarks about access to the sea, without mentioning Ethiopia by name.

Ethiopia has relied on the port of Djibouti for more than 85% of its exports and imports since it became landlocked following Eritrea’s secession in 1993. It had direct access to an Eritrean port until the two countries engaged in a two-year border war between 1998 and 2000.

Tensions eased in 2018 when Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement. The Ethiopian leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his reconciliation with Eritrea, whose troops later fought alongside Ethiopian forces in Tigray’s brutal two-year war.

On Thursday, Abiy said the Ethiopian army has “never initiated an attack” and “will not attack anyone,” adding that “we are committed to mutual interest through dialogue and negotiation.