Somalia has taken a bold step by turning away a plane carrying Ethiopian officials bound for the self-declared republic of Somaliland, marking a significant escalation in the diplomatic tensions between the two nations. According to Somalia’s information minister, the aircraft lacked the necessary permission to enter Somali airspace.
The Ethiopian delegation had intended to visit Somaliland for discussions related to a controversial deal signed on January 1st. This agreement has become a focal point of contention, as it involves leasing one of Somaliland’s ports to Ethiopia in exchange for a stake in Ethiopian Airlines and potential acknowledgment of Somaliland as an independent state. Somalia vehemently rejects any notion of Somaliland’s sovereignty, viewing it as an integral part of its territory.
Expressing strong disapproval, Somalia has labeled the deal an act of aggression. The Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) asserted that flight ETH8273 violated international aviation protocols by attempting to land at Hargeisa Airport in Somaliland without proper clearance. Despite this incident, regular flights between Somalia and Ethiopia continue unaffected, as stated by the SCAA.
As of now, the Ethiopian government has not officially responded, but the head of Ethiopian Airlines confirmed the return of the involved plane to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Somaliland, having declared independence from Somalia in 1991, operates as a self-governing entity with elections, a police force, and its own currency. However, no country has recognized its sovereignty.
By ordering the Ethiopian plane out of its airspace, Somalia is sending a strong message that it does not recognize Somaliland as an independent nation.
Amidst this diplomatic row, both the United States and the African Union have voiced support for the territorial integrity of Somalia, urging all parties to de-escalate tensions. The situation remains fluid, and further developments are awaited.