Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi expressed solidarity with Somalia in its ongoing dispute with Ethiopia, which recently entered into an agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland.

The deal involves obtaining access to the sea and establishing a marine force base in the strategically located region.

President El-Sissi criticized Ethiopia's agreement with Somaliland and urged Ethiopia to pursue access to seaports in Somalia and Djibouti through diplomatic means rather than attempting to control another country's territory. He emphasized Egypt's commitment to supporting Somalia and protecting its territorial integrity.

Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, has maintained its own government despite lacking international recognition. A recent memorandum of understanding between Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed allowed Ethiopia to lease a 20-kilometer stretch of coastline to establish a marine force base. However, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud rejected the deal, citing a violation of international law and a compromise of sovereignty.

President Mahmoud visited Egypt to garner support for his government and held meetings with key figures, including Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Al-Azhar mosque's Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb.

This diplomatic tension comes against the backdrop of Egypt's existing dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Talks between the two countries, along with Sudan, regarding the filling and operation of the dam have been ongoing for over a decade. The latest round of discussions ended without a resolution, with both Cairo and Addis Ababa trading blame for the failure.

One of the key issues is the amount of water Ethiopia will release downstream, especially during periods of multi-year drought. Egypt, fearing the dam's potential impact on its water and irrigation supply downstream, seeks assurances from Ethiopia. The dam, located on the Blue Nile near the Sudan border, has been a source of tension, and Ethiopia's rejection of binding arbitration complicates the negotiations. The completion of the dam's final phase and its operationalization last year further intensified the dispute between the nations.

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