Saudi Arabia brokers Ethiopia-Eritrea peace accord
LONDON - Saudi Arabia’s and the United Arab Emirates’ diplomatic efforts in the Horn of Africa are yielding results, exemplified by the peace accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea and outreach to Djibouti, which could result in a similar deal between it and Eritrea.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a peace accord September 16 in Jeddah with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on hand.
“The peace deal resulted in restoration of normal relations between the countries, on the basis of the close bonds of geography, history and culture between the two nations and their peoples,” Saudi Arabia said in a statement, adding that this new phase “will bring significant developments in the relations between the two nations in all fields.”
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan praised the agreement as “a victory for Saudi diplomacy.”
“The Saudi patronage of the peace agreement is yet another addition to its historic initiatives that signify its international presence and influence in strengthening world peace,” Sheikh Mohammed said after meeting with Afwerki in Abu Dhabi on September 19.
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said the signing of the peace accord was in line with the kingdom’s foreign policy of seeking and establishing peace.
“KSA has always been at the forefront of reconciliation efforts and promoting peace.” Prince Khalid wrote on Twitter. “While others exploit conflicts to sow division, KSA mediates, with successful outcomes going back decades, including Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, among others.”
One day after the signing of the peace agreement there were the first face-to-face talks between the presidents of Eritrea and Djibouti in more than a decade. The two leaders agreed to usher in a new era of cooperation between the neighbouring countries.
Relations between Eritrea and Djibouti deteriorated over a border dispute in 2008.
After Abiy Ahmed was installed as Ethiopian prime minister in April he called for peace and accepted a 2000 UN-sponsored peace plan that involved his country ceding disputed territory to Eritrea.
Ahmed also reached out to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia was his first destination as head of state and he asked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz help convince Afwerki to respond to his appeals for peace.
The efforts by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end such lingering disputes are part of a foreign policy strategy by the two allies to increase their influence in the Horn of Africa and counter Iran’s expansionist agenda.
The United Arab Emirates has been gaining influence in the Horn of Africa since the mid-2000s, with a combination of diplomacy and economic and military investments.
As part of its counterterrorism strategy, the UAE signed an agreement to establish a military base in Somaliland, where it provides training and support to local security forces. This represents much-needed security cover for Somaliland authorities because their borders are not recognised by neighbouring Somalia and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab operates along the border between the two countries.
One of the biggest UAE investments in Africa has been through Dubai-based DP World, which began with the building of a large port in Djibouti in 2006. Ten years later the firm announced a $442 million agreement with the Somaliland government to develop and operate a regional trade and logistics hub at Berbera Port, the largest single investment deal in Somaliland.