Somalia will defend itself if Ethiopia seals 'illegal' port deal, president says

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said his country would "defend itself" if Ethiopia goes ahead with a deal to set up a naval base in the breakaway region of Somaliland and possibly recognise the territory as an independent state, APA reports citing Reuters.

Landlocked Ethiopia agreed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 1 to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland - a territory that Somalia says it owns, even though the northern region has enjoyed effective autonomy since 1991.

Ethiopia said it wants to set up a naval base there and offered possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange - prompting a defiant response from Somalia and fears the deal could further destabilise the Horn of Africa.

"If Ethiopia insists, Somalia will resist and will refuse," Mohamud told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview at the heavily fortified presidential palace in Mogadishu.

"If they come into the country, Somalia will do everything that it can to defend itself."

He did not go into further detail on what action Somalia might take.

Mohamud said he would only agree to discuss the matter with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when the government in Addis Ababa renounces its intention "to take part of our country".

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