Top US diplomat discussed ‘progress’ of Tigray peace deal with Ethiopian prime minister, State Department says.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced $331 million in new humanitarian aid to Ethiopia during a visit to Addis Ababa aimed at improving the United States’ relations with the East African country.
The aid package was announced on Wednesday during a visit by Blinken to a United Nations logistics warehouse in the Ethiopian capital after meeting with the country’s leaders.
“This funding will provide life-saving support to displaced people and those affected by conflict, drought and food insecurity in Ethiopia,” Blinken said in a statement.
The new aid will bring total US aid to Ethiopia to $780 million by 2023, the top US diplomat said. He added that the funding will provide “food, shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, education and other important services” for Ethiopians.
The announcement came as Blinken held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen earlier in the day.
His visit to Ethiopia also follows a deal last November to end deadly fighting between Ethiopian government forces and rebels in the northern Tigray region.
The US had criticized Abiy’s government for alleged atrocities committed by Ethiopian troops and their allies during the conflict, which left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced.
Washington imposed extensive restrictions on economic and security aid to Addis Ababa amid the fighting, as well as cutting the country off from a tax-free trade program for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
On Wednesday, the US State Department said Blinken and Abiy discussed “significant progress” made in implementing the peace deal.
“These advances include improved humanitarian access and restoration of basic services,” it said in a statement.
“The secretary reiterated US support for the efforts of the parties to fully implement the agreement and thus lay the foundations for lasting peace.”
The State Department added that Blinken and Abiy also discussed the “importance of accountability for the atrocities committed by all parties during the conflict”.
Abiy, for his part, said in a Twitter post that he discussed several bilateral issues with Blinken. “We have agreed to strengthen longstanding bilateral relations (between) our countries with a commitment to partnership,” he wrote.
Today I got acquainted with @SecBlinken Anthony J. Blinken, where we had in-depth discussions on various domestic, bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern. We have agreed to strengthen long-standing bilateral relations with our countries with a commitment to partnership. pic.twitter.com/L7r8ElNmuC
— Abiy Ahmed Ali 🇪🇹 (@AbiyAhmedAli) March 15, 2023
Rights groups have criticized the Ethiopian armed forces and their Eritrean allies, accusing them of grave abuses, including murder and sexual violence, in their war against Tigrayan forces – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
A UN-backed commission found last year that both the government and the Tigrayan armed forces committed human rights violations, including war crimes.
Last week, Amnesty International USA urged Blinken to “put human rights at the center of his conversation with Prime Minister Abiy”.
Ethiopia — Africa’s second most populous nation, with more than 120 million people — has denied the most serious allegations of human rights abuses during the war.
Rather, it rejected US criticism and accused Washington of interfering in its internal affairs.
Blinken’s trip is the latest in a series of visits to Africa by senior US officials as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to strengthen ties with countries on the continent amid competition from China and Russia.
The US Secretary of State will visit the West African country of Niger on Thursday, which has been battling armed groups.