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Blinken pays visit to Ethiopia, meets with Prime Minister

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Ethiopia on Wednesday for the progress it has made in implementing the peace deal to end the Tigray conflict, but stopped short of ushering the country back into a U.S. trade program.

Both nations worked to reconcile ties frayed by the two-year conflict in Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia. Blinken spoke with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on humanitarian aid, reestablishing essential services, and the maintaining of peace.

With the signing of a ceasefire in November, the war that had claimed tens of thousands of lives, leaving hundreds of thousands starving, and uprooting millions of people, came to an end.

During the conflict, the United States shut off Ethiopia’s access to the duty-free trade program known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which had been a boon to the nation’s textile industry.

“Certainly we share the aspiration of Ethiopia returning to AGOA,” Blinken told reporters after his meetings with Abiy and other government figures.

He added that Washington would keep cooperating with Addis Ababa to achieve the objective and that Ethiopia had been provided clear benchmarks.

Reiterating remarks made by the Ethiopian leader on Twitter following the meeting, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that his discussion with Abiy was a reaffirmation of the significant alliance between the United States and Ethiopia.

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

Blinken made the announcement about USD 331 million in fresh humanitarian relief to Ethiopia while touring a United Nations logistics facility.

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.

Discussed with Ethiopia Deputy PM and FM @DemekeHasen about progress made on implementing the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the need for unhindered access by international human rights monitors to conflict-affected areas, as well as Ethiopia’s important regional role.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 15, 2023

America was vocal in its condemnation of alleged crimes committed by Ethiopian forces. Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa and a long-time ally of the United States in East Africa, accused Washington of interfering in its domestic affairs and warned to review their partnership.

Blinken and Abiy talked on “the importance of accountability for the atrocities perpetrated by all parties during the conflict, as well as the need for an inclusive and comprehensive process of transitional justice,” Price said.

Humanitarian workers claim that while militia from the neighboring Amhara region control substantial portions of the disputed western and southern regions of Tigray, the Eritrean army continues to be stationed in a number of border regions.

Although Blinken stated that their troops were leaving, the government spokesperson for Eritrea has not reacted to inquiries regarding the conduct of Eritrean troops or any other aspects of its policies. A representative for the Amhara regional government said it and the people of Amhara were “always willing to co-operate with peace accord processes and initiatives”.

Ethiopia is seeking to rebuild relations with friends as well as to restructure its debt and obtain an IMF loan, which the state finance minister claimed last year was being delayed in part by the war.

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