Türkiye could act as a mediator should a recent controversial port deal between Ethiopia and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland spiral into a regional crisis, according to an expert in international politics.

The two sides signed a deal on Jan. 1 to grant landlocked Ethiopia commercial and military access to the Red Sea in return for recognition of Somaliland as an independent nation.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s stated ambition to secure access to the Red Sea is a source of tension between the Horn of Africa nation and its neighbors. It has raised concerns of a fresh conflict in the region.

Mehmet Özkan, author and a foreign policy expert currently serving in the Joint War Institute and the National Defense University, doubted the deal would cause a major crisis as feared but pointed out Ankara could employ its good offices to smooth the tension thanks to well-established relations with all sides involved.

“Türkiye already has a Foreign Ministry envoy acting as a mediator in diplomatic negotiations between Somalia and Somaliland and doesn’t want this process to be undermined at any rate,” Özkan told Daily Sabah.

Ankara enjoys a close economic, diplomatic and military friendship with Somalia and Ethiopia.

In Somalia, Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and companies are extensively active in education, energy and finance. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the country in 2011, Türkiye has built an 80,000-square-meter (861,112-square-foot) embassy in Mogadishu, its biggest embassy in Africa.

it would endanger stability in the wider Horn of Africa region. Mohamud then asked people to prepare for the defense of the country and recalled the ambassador from Ethiopia on Tuesday to hold “deliberations” on the issue.

Abiy said in October that Ethiopia’s existence was “tied to the Red Sea,” adding that if countries in the Horn of Africa “plan to live together in peace, we have to find a way to mutually share with each other in a balanced manner.”

In the meantime, the army chiefs of Ethiopia and Somaliland have been discussing military cooperation, further fueling concerns of fresh ension breaking out between Ethiopia and Somalia, which withstood an Ethiopian occupation from 2006 to 2009 during the Somali civil war

Daily Sabah