Saudi assistant defense minister Lt. Gen. Ahmed Abdullah Ayesh ended on Monday a surprise visit to Djibouti, where he met with Djiboutian defense minister Ali Hassan Bahdon.
During the visit, the two sides discussed ways to strengthen the relations between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, which saw about a year ago rapid development against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Yemen, which borders with Djibouti.
Djibouti official news agency quoted the Djiboutian Defense Minister as saying that during the meeting they discussed ways to strengthen military coordination and cooperation between the two countries, pointing out that they had exchanged views on securing the maritime border between the two countries.
He also pointed to the need for cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti to achieve stability, ensure the security of the Red Sea, and to achieve stability in Yemen, stressing that the two countries will work in a more coordinated way on maintaining maritime security between them.
Bahdon stated that Djibouti had agreed in principle» to establish a Saudi military base on its territory overlooking the Red Sea, according to a statement by the Foreign Minister of Djibouti, Mahmoud Ali Hassan, last December.
On December 4, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said to Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, “I took Saudi military leaders to some of Djibouti areas for Saudi Arabia’s military bases,” Minister of Foreign Affairs .
He explained that “the security, military and strategic draft of the accord is ready and the coastal areas that could host the base, be it military or naval, have been identified after Saudi military officers and officials explored some of the Djibouti areas.”
Youssouf then stressed that “there are no hesitations on the deal and the delay is purely technical as such matters do take some time, and there are no political reasons behind it.”
On Iran, Youssouf insisted that Djibouti has cut all ties with the Islamic Republic ever since it undermined the “legitimate government of Yemen” and after it supported the Houthi’s cross border attacks onto Saudi soil.
Both Djibouti and Saudi Arabia have a vested interest in securing the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. Recent reports have shown that Iran has been smuggling weapons to the Houthi rebels from Somalia via the waterways surrounding Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
Egypt attempted to impede building the Saudi military base in Djibouti
Egyptian diplomatic sources had revealed that Cairo started almost three months ago moves to stop the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti to build a Saudi military base at the entrances of the Gulf of Aden.
Cairo completely rejects this agreement based on the facts that these areas lie in what is considered ‘Egyptian diplomatic influence’, and fall within Egypt’s national security zone as an Egyptian strategic depth in the far south, according to sources.
The sources added that the Egyptian political leadership understands the Saudi move because of Djibouti’s strategic location on the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aden, which comes to increase the pressure cards in the light of the conflict with Iran, particularly in the war led by Riyadh against the Houthis in Yemen.
However, the source continued, this move contradicts the common rules and norms pervading among the Arab countries that those areas lie within the Egyptian diplomatic and strategic influence zones because of its direct impact on the water issue, the Nile Basin and the Suez Canal corridor.