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Ethiopian PM on a State Visit to Saudi Arabia

Bringing what seems an end to an almost two-year old speculation about worsening relations between Ethiopia and the Arab Gulf countries, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is on the second day of a state visit to Saudi Arabia. However, diplomatic relations in the region are generally unstable and may change with any new development.

On Sunday, November 20, 2016, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s airplane landed at King Salman Air Base Airport in Saudi Arabia. He was received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and other senior Saudi officials.

The Ethiopian delegation includes the minister of finance and economic development Abraham Tekeste, Minister of Defense Siraj Fergessa, the prime minister’s adviser Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, and the fiscal policy adviser Sufian Ahmed.

In the evening Hailemariam Desalegn discussed economic cooperation between the two countries with the Saudi Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Hamad bin Sulaiman Al-Bazei, and with the Saudi Commerce and Investment Minister Majid Al-Qassabi.

Today, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz.

The Saudi investment portfolio in Ethiopia includes about 300 projects with an estimated value of US$200 million. The two sides have agreed to further increase Saudi investments in Ethiopia in the field of agriculture, livestock, leather manufacturing, and other sectors of the Ethiopian economy.

During his visit, Hailemariam Desalgen will also discuss regional security with Saudi officials.

Last year, several outlets reported unconfirmed news that Saudi Arabia and the UAE signed a thirty-year lease agreement with Eritrea to use naval facilities in its territories around the port of Assab, adjacent to Bab Al-Mendeb, the Southern entrance to the Rec Sea. By the time the rumors spread, Saudi Arabia was several months into its military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen.

The UN Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring group reported that it received reports of “400 Eritrean troops are embedded with UAE forces battling Houthi rebels in Yemen.” That report, that has been spreading since March of 2015, as well as other related reports about Eritrea’s involvement in the Yemeni war were never confirmed.

Reacting to the news soon after it was reported by the UN investigators in October last year, the Ethiopian prime minister had warned Saudi Arabia and UAE of consequences if the military cooperation with Eritrea would lead to the destabilization of Ethiopia. However, Desalegn also stated that Saudi Arabia and UAE “have assured us that they would not be engaged in activities that would endanger the peace and security of Ethiopia.”

Though he had dismissed the news as lacking evidence to support it, Desalegn stated that the two countries would “evacuate the area as soon as the mission [in Yemen] is completed.”

Many observers have based their analysis on that rumor and predicted of worsening relations between Ethiopia and the Gulf countries.

Since Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a fierce border war between 1998 and 2000, the two countries have remained in a no-peace-no-war situation.


Eritrea Watches the Houthi Advance in Yemen (October 15, 2014)
Isaias Wants a Bigger Role in The Yemeni Crisis (March 28, 2015)
Egyptian Frigates Patrolling Bab El-Mendeb Area (April 16, 2015)
Just A Crack: Saudi Door Opened for Isaias (April 29, 2015)
Warships in Asseb: The agony Of Irrelevance (November 4, 2015)

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  • Kalihari Snake

    Good morning all (Asmara time): Possible strategy to break the political impasse between Ethiopia and Eritrea: U. N., AU and/or IGAD to make independent public appeal to Eritrea to use Eritrean ports to timely deliver humanitarian food and humanitarian supplies for Ethiopia’s 5.6 million people estimated to been in need of relief food – humanitarian assistance during 2017 as a result of El Nino conditions. Food and humanitarian supplies would be dropped at an agreed to Ethio-Eri border point for trans-shipment to Ethiopia utilizing Ethiopian transport capacity. Though, PIA has always maintained that Eritrean ports could at any time be used for humanitarian cargo to include that destined to Ethiopia, this has never been put to test. Even though the TPLF has a deliberate strategy of not using Eritrean ports, should an active media campaign highlight the need to use Eritrean ports to enable life-saving timely assistance to Ethiopia’s vulnerable populations, then maybe Ethiopia’s populace at large, could exceptionally sway matters.

  • Solomon

    Selamat Revelers,

    Are we sure PMDH was not in Saudi to attend Eritreans Festival in Jeda and Ryadd?


    • blink

      Hi solomon ,

      That is super funny , but the fakely elected PMHD was just taking lessons on how to control the Ethiopian people for the next decade to come . EPRDF are flushed out their stomach, no more 100% elected government . Who knows what is going on inside Ethiopia killing machine

  • Dear All,

    Why would ethiopia’s minster of defense travel with the pm to a country engaged in an unwinnable war with its neighbor, and it is looking for mercenaries (the so called saudi coalition in yemen) from all directions? If I remember well, egypt has withdrawn from yemen, and the war is mired in civilian casualties without showing any military gains? Can ethiopia afford to be drawn into another crisis, when it faces a crisis itself at home? Does ethiopia feel that it is no more destabilized by the gcc countries and saudi arabia? What do governments discuss, when they pay a friendly visit: what separates them or what brings them together? is there a difference between ethiopia’s and saudi arabia’s viewpoint on regional security? should eritrea worry about this new rapprochement or not?

    I hope it is mainly about economic cooperation than military cooperation.

    • Hameed Al-Arabi

      Salam Horizon,

      Dealing with neighbors benefits a lot. Most problems are regional, even far countries have to get a leg in neighboring countries to create instability inside any country.