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Kenya proposes maritime treaty to defuse Ethiopia-Somalia tensions

 Kenya has put forward a regional maritime treaty as a means to ease tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia regarding an agreement allowing Ethiopia to establish a naval base and gain port access in Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland, a senior Kenyan official stated on Thursday.

On January 1, landlocked Ethiopia agreed to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland, an area that asserts independence and has operated autonomously since 1991, potentially offering recognition of Somaliland in return. This move elicited a defiant reaction from Somalia and raised concerns that the agreement could escalate instability in the Horn of Africa.

According to Korir Sing'oei, Kenya's principal secretary for foreign affairs, the proposed treaty, developed in consultation with Djibouti and the regional bloc IGAD, would outline how landlocked states in the area can access ports on commercial terms. "IGAD can formulate a treaty for sharing maritime resources," Sing'oei remarked, referring to the group of countries in the region.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met with Kenyan President William Ruto in Nairobi on Thursday as part of efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. Sing'oei emphasized, "We continue to engage with all the parties to ensure regional stability."

If accepted, Nairobi's proposal would provide Ethiopia with "stable and predictable access to maritime resources" for its operations, while also respecting Somalia's territorial integrity, Sing'oei added. Both Somalia and Ethiopia are considering the proposal, and their leaders have been urged to meet and advance the process.

Sing'oei stressed the urgency of resolving the issue promptly, as Al-Shabab militants in Somalia are exploiting the dispute to undermine the government in Mogadishu and question Somalia's sovereignty.

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