Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ruled out conflict with Somalia on Tuesday regarding a Red Sea Access deal with Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland.

Ahmed told the federal parliament that Addis Ababa has no intention of causing harm to Somalia as he invoked Ethiopian soldiers who had died for the “peace of Somalia.” He said the Ethiopian and Somali peoples are “bound by blood.”

“Therefore, the friendship between the two countries is profound,” he said, adding that Ethiopia does not acknowledge war against any country “in principle.”

But he said external forces, who he did not name, are trying to incite conflict between the two nations “which should not happen.”

He said the request for sea access with Somaliland is based on mutual benefit that is useful not only for Ethiopia but for regional cooperation.

Relations between the two neighbors have been worsening since Ethiopia struck the deal with Somaliland on Jan. 1.

Somalia has rejected Ethiopia’s Red Sea port deal with Somaliland, calling it “illegitimate,” a threat to good neighborliness and a violation of its sovereignty. It also recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia after the deal was announced.

The Ethiopian government has defended its decision to sign the deal without Mogadishu’s approval, and said the agreement with Somaliland “will affect no party or country.”

The deal allows Ethiopia to obtain a permanent and reliable naval base and commercial maritime service in the Gulf of Aden.

​​​Ethiopia lost its Red Sea ports in the early 1990s after the Eritrean War of Independence, which lasted from 1961 to 1991.

In 1991, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, leading to the establishment of two separate nations. The separation resulted in Ethiopia losing direct access to the Red Sea and key ports.