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Ethiopia hosts 2nd annual conference on Red Sea regional cooperation amid geopolitical shifts

(Photo: Institute of Foreign Affairs)

Addis Abeba – The Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) convened the 2nd Red Sea Dialogue in Addis Abeba on 30 May, 2024. The forum, themed “The Need for Regional Cooperation at a Time of Geopolitical Shifts,” assembled scholars, officials, and experts to discuss maritime security and economic prospects in the strategic Red Sea region.

In his welcoming remarks, IFA Executive Director Jafar Bedru highlighted the vast potential the Red Sea offers the surrounding nations for economic growth, trade, and natural resources. He emphasized the geopolitical significance of the region due to the presence of major international shipping routes like the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal. 

Jafar stated the dialogue would address four key areas: the evolving security landscape’s impact, access to seaports and port-sharing, gaps in the existing regional security framework, and models of successful regional maritime cooperation.

Several panelists and distinguished guests from Ethiopia, the region, and abroad attended the high-level dialogue to share their insights and expertise.

Ambassador Eshete Tilahun, Chief of Staff at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the crucial need for cooperation among neighboring countries to maintain peace and security in the Red Sea area. He highlighted Ethiopia’s strategic importance and active involvement in regional initiatives.

The forum discussions underscored Ethiopia’s vital role in safeguarding Red Sea security as an indispensable actor in peace efforts, given its historical ties to the region. Participants emphasized the importance of continuous dialogue and collaborative initiatives.

The previous year’s conference, titled “Red Sea Security Dynamics: The Need for Dialogue and Cooperation at a Time of Geopolitical Entanglements,” was held in September 2023 in Addis Abeba at the Sheraton Hotel. The conference examined regional cooperation for mutual benefit from the Red Sea’s role in global trade.

Discussions among Ethiopian academics, diplomats and politicians on topics of Ethiopia’s access to sea and Red Sea security dynamics picked momentum in Ethiopia shortly after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration publicized its stance on Ethiopia’s need to get sovereign access to sea outlet. “The Red Sea and the Nile will determine Ethiopia. They are interlinked with Ethiopia and will be the fundamentals that will either bring in Ethiopia’s development or bring about its demise,” PM Abiy said in one of his much publicized official comments.

Since then several discussions and seminars are happening in Ethiopia expanding on the topic. One such discussion among academicians took place in December last year when academics from across Ethiopia convened at Semera University in the capital of the Afar regional state to deliberate on the country’s urgent need for fair access to seaports in the East African region. The forum, a collaborative effort by Semera University and its counterparts in Addis Abeba, Mekelle, Dire Dawa and Jigjiga universities highlighted the crucial role of higher education institutions in leveraging diplomacy to secure Ethiopia’s access to the Red Sea. AS

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