Arab Gulf states in the Horn of Africa: What role do they play?
The recent Ethiopia-Eritrea peace agreement was not signed in either country, but in Saudi Arabia. Although not included in the typical “Middle East and North Africa” (MENA) grouping, the horn of Africa is separated by the Arab Gulf only by the thin Red Sea, 220 miles across at its widest point. Given the geographical proximity and importance of the sea for international shipping, securing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has been an strategic priority for Saudi Arabia. This has meant playing an increasing role in the politics of the countries on the other side of the water. As such, the country has become a major donor and investor in shipping, ports, pipeline construction, and trade development. Helping to negotiate peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia represents a success in their strengthening of ties with the area and improving the future of regional coordination. Especially with the escalation of conflicting relations with Iran and their threat to shipping via the Straight of Hormuz, Saudi Arabia will continue to seek security by investing in its neighbors across the water, protecting its alternate shipping routes, and strengthening its regional ties.