A delegation from landlocked Ethiopia began negotiating with the self-declared enclave of Somaliland on May 26 to gain access to its Red Sea port of Berbera for trade.
Ethiopia wants to use the port in northwestern Somalia to move goods and fuel through Somaliland.
“The visit of the Ethiopian delegation is connected with the agreed usage of Berbera port by the Ethiopian businessmen for transit of goods and fuel to Ethiopia,” Somaliland Public Works Minister Said Sulub told a news conference.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has been a relatively stable enclave, which held its first multiparty election in 2003. It is not recognized internationally.
President Dahir Rayale Kahin of Somaliland signed an agreement with Ethiopia on August 2003 to legalize trade between the countries, establishing customs posts along their border and agreeing to cooperate in improving the roads linking the countries. Ethiopian Revenues Minister Getachew Belay led the delegation, which is expected to finalize a port agreement by May 28 and to assess the condition of the road network linking Berbera and Ethiopia.
Trade between the two countries is mostly limited to the stimulant leaf qat, fruit and vegetables exported by Ethiopia and foodstuffs and other commodities exported by Somaliland.
Outside Somaliland, the rest of Somalia has had no central authority since the ousting of former President Siad Barre in 1991 and has been devastated by warlords and their militias.
A transitional federal government was formed last year in neighboring Kenya, but has yet to return home.