March 14, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi today held talks with the heads of the two breakaway entities of Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, on ways to boost bilateral relations.
Somaliland is a self-proclaimed state established in 1991.It considers itself to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate, but remains unrecognized by the international community. However it has strong relations with Ethiopia and its president had been received as head of state for the first time in June 2007, by Meles Zenawi.
The Puntland is a region in northeastern Somalia and unlike neighboring Somaliland, it does not seek outright independence from Somalia. To the contrary, its former president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, was strongly backed by Ethiopia in his bid to conquer the country at the head of the Transitional Federal Government.
Ethiopia has security agreements with both territories as it is very interested in partnering to hunt Ogaden rebels, who are ethnically Somali.
One after the other, Prime Minister Zenawi received on Saturday Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamuda and Somaliland President Dahir Rayle Kahin. Discussions with the visiting “presidents” were focused on security issues and trade ties.
"The two parties have also reached an agreement to bolster cooperation in addressing the problems of refugees that could exist in their respective countries" said the Ethiopian official ENA on the meeting with the head of the Puntland authority.
In April 2008, the Ethiopian rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) accused Puntland of arresting two of its top leaders and handing them over to Ethiopia.
Following Zenawi’s next meeting with the head of Somaliland, the region’s president stated that he held talks with the Ethiopian premier on security issues in the region. He further added that he shares the same concerns with Zenawi on the current situation in the Horn of Africa.
Somaliland has close ties with Ethiopia since its establishment. In November 2000 the two sides signed an agreement enabling the landlocked Ethiopia to use the port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden, for the transit of its imports and exports.
Ethiopia, which backed the Somali transitional government from 2006 to the end of 2008, decided to withdraw its troops from the troubled country after failing to draw more support for its troops there. The military intervention had been intended also to fight Eritrean-backed Somali Islamists.