Ethiopia has sent emissaries to Kenya and Somalia seeking to have their maritime border dispute resolved without worsening fragile diplomatic ties in the Horn of Africa.
Officials in Nairobi and Mogadishu said Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the region’s security prefect, had scheduled a meeting for this week between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohammed Farmajo for July 13.
However, the meeting was still subject to confirmation from the two heads of State with the officials leaving it at “their diaries allowing.”
The revelations came amid intense speculation on Tuesday that Somalia had ceded ground on the dispute by giving room for an out-of-court settlement, a path it disowned by taking the matter to the International Court of Justice in 2014 where the matter is set for hearing on September 9.
However, President Farmajo’s office said “we unequivocally deny a change of the position of the Federal Government of Somalia on the ongoing case at ICJ.”
“The office of the Attorney General will investigate the sources of this propaganda and the fake news it embodies,” the Somalia presidency’s director of communications Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed said of the “malicious media reports.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
Senior Somali government officials, however, said Dr Abiy has been working behind the scenes to broker a truce amid pressure from key international players like the United States and the United Kingdom for a peaceful solution.
Igad and its partners fear the maritime dispute could undermine cooperation in the fight against terrorism and sea piracy in the Horn of Africa.
An earlier bid this year by Dr Abiy failed after Mogadishu stuck to resolving the dispute in court.
Yet Ethiopia which has interests in Somali ports and shares defence cooperation with Kenya has insisted the maritime dispute should be resolved amicably, to avoid stalling other areas of cooperation.
On Tuesday media reports in Mogadishu had indicated that President Farmajo was willing to delay – not withdraw – the case at ICJ and allow “negotiations under special arrangements.”
Nairobi also downplayed reports of a change of heart in Mogadishu saying there was nothing official.
“We will need to verify,” Kenya Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau said.