Blinken visits Ethiopia to push peace accord and fix ties

World Wednesday 15/March/2023 14:26 PM
By: DW
Blinken visits Ethiopia to push peace accord and fix ties

Addis Ababa: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ethiopia seeking to support the peace process after a civil war that has now lasted more than two years.

Blinken’s trip comes as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to counter Chinese influence on the continent. Russia also has been establishing a foothold, bolstering relations with many nations —including Ethiopia.

It's the highest-ranking visit by a US official to the country since the outbreak of conflict between Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan rebels in 2020. Since then, relations have been strained with Washington accusing Addis Ababa of crimes against humanity. Ethiopia has denied these claims.

US estimates say around 500,000 lives have been lost in the conflict.

What is on the agenda
Blinken will began his trip by meeting with Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, who stressed that Ethiopia and the US "have longstanding relations and it is time to revitalise them and move forward."

Blinken then told reporters: "There is a lot to be done. Probably the most important thing is to deepen the peace that has taken hold in the north."

The top US diplomat is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and leaders of the Tigrayan forces.

Molly Phee, the top US diplomat for Africa, said that Blinken's visit would aim to consolidate peace, but added the US-Ethiopian relationship was not ready to go "back to normal."

"The conflict that Ethiopia just endured was earth-shattering. It involved terrible atrocities by all parties and was extremely disruptive to the country's stability and to its economy, which is also facing historic drought conditions,” she told reporters.

Washington had imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and cut its access to the US African Growth and Opportunity Act, a duty-free trade program. Abiy's administration is likely to bring that up for discussion.

Ethiopia is also looking to restructure its debt and secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Despite the Tigray peace deal, violence has erupted elsewhere in the nation, and the state has been accused of restricting internet freedom. While humanitarian aid has been allowed to flow in, the basic needs of many people are still not being met.

Humanitarian workers say Eritrean troops are still posted in several border areas. Militia from the neighboring Amhara region have occupied territory in contested parts of western and southern Tigray.

This is Blinken’s third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and Washington's top diplomat was set to head to the West African nation of Niger on Thursday. US Vice President Kamala Harris is also expected to travel to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia soon.