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Blinken meets Ethiopian leader to repair ties damaged by war

2023-03-15T16:08:58Z

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed discussed efforts to reach sustainable peace in Tigray on Wednesday, Blinken’s spokesperson said, as both sides seek to mend diplomatic ties damaged by the war there.

During a two-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Blinken and Abiy also talked about the importance of accountability for the atrocities perpetrated by all parties during the war, said spokesperson Ned Price.

The Ethiopian government and forces from Tigray, a region in the north of the country, signed a peace deal in November, ending a two-year conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.

“The Secretary reiterated U.S. support for efforts by the parties to achieve full implementation of the agreement in order to lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace,” said Price.

The meeting represented a reaffirmation of the important partnership between the United States and Ethiopia, he said, echoing a statement from Abiy posted on Twitter after the meeting had ended.

“We have agreed to strengthen the long standing bilateral relations between our countries with a commitment to partnership,” the Ethiopian leader said.

Later, during a visit to a United Nations logistics warehouse, Blinken announced $331 million in new humanitarian aid to Ethiopia, saying this would provide life-saving support for people diplaced and affected by conflict, drought and food insecurity.

Blinken’s trip is the latest in a series of visits to Africa by senior Biden administration officials as Washington looks to reinforce ties with a continent where China’s diplomatic and economic influence is ubiquitous.

On Thursday, he will head to the West African nation of Niger, which has been confronting a growing Islamist insurgency.

The United States was outspoken in its criticism of alleged atrocities by Ethiopian forces and their allies from Eritrea and the Amhara region during the Tigray war.

The U.S. government imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and cut access to the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act, a duty-free trade program that had been a boon for the country’s textile sector.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and traditionally a U.S. ally in East Africa, accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs and threatened to reassess the bilateral relationship.

It has denied the most serious allegations of human rights violations during in the war.

In a press briefing this week, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee said getting U.S. relations with Ethiopia back to normal would require additional steps by the government to “break the cycle of ethnic political violence”.

Ethiopia is also looking to restructure its debt and secure an International Monetary Fund loan, which the state finance minister said last year was being delayed in part by the Tigray war.

While the peace deal has allowed humanitarian aid to flow into Tigray, needs remain immense after the conflict left hundreds of thousands facing starvation.

Allegation of abuses, especially sexual violence, have persisted after the deal was signed, according to rights groups and humanitarian workers in the region.

Eritrean troops remain in several border areas while militia from the Amhara region, which neighbours Tigray, occupy large areas of territory in contested parts of western and southern Tigray, humanitarian workers said.

Eritrea’s government spokesperson has not responded to requests for comment about the actions of Eritrean troops or any other aspect of its policies.

A spokesperson for the Amhara regional government said it and the people of Amhara were “always ready to co-operate with peace deal process and activities”.

Related Galleries:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a U.N. Logistics Center Warehouse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Chief Daniel Bekele, as Network of Ethiopian Women’s Association Executive Director Saba Gebremedhin, U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Catherine Sozi, Human Rights Council Executive Director Dan Yirga and Center of Advancement of Rights and Democracy Program Manager Mengistu Assefa Dadi look on, during a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a U.N. Logistics Center Warehouse accompanied by USAID/Ethiopia Mission Director Sean Jones and Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for an official visit to Ethiopia at the Bole International airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen looks on during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for an official visit to Ethiopia at the Bole International airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Pool
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