Blinken’s trip is the latest in a series of visits to Africa by senior US officials as the United States seeks to strengthen its ties with the continent in the face of competition from China and Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister in Addis Ababa, as the two governments seek to restore relations after friction sparked by the two-year civil war in the Tigray region.
” There is a lot to do. Probably the most important thing is to deepen the peace that has settled in the north,” Blinken told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting.
Blinken, who began his talks with Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen with a coffee ceremony, was also due to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and leaders of the Tigrayan forces who fought the federal government in the war in the northern region.
“We have a long-standing relationship and it’s time to revitalize them and move forward,” Demeke said.
The senior American diplomat will travel Thursday to Niger, a country in West Africa, which faces armed groups.
Blinken’s journey is the last of a series of visits to Africa by senior US officials as the Biden administration seeks to strengthen ties with the continent in the face of competition from China and Russia.
The United States has been frank in its critical alleged atrocities committed by Ethiopian forces and their allies during the Tigray War, which killed tens of thousands before a peace agreement was reached last November.
Washington has imposed sweeping restrictions on economic and security aid to Ethiopia and reduced access to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a duty-free trade program that has been a boon. for the US textile industry.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and a traditional US ally in East Africa, has accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs and threatened to reassess bilateral relations.
He denied the most serious allegations of human rights violations during the war.
At a press briefing this week, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee said returning US relations with Ethiopia to normal would require additional government action to “break the cycle of ethnic political violence”.
Ethiopia is also seeking to restructure its debt and secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which the state finance minister said last year was partly delayed by the Tigray war.
While the peace deal has allowed humanitarian aid to flow into Tigray, the needs remain huge after the conflict has left hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation.
Allegations of abuse, particularly sexual violence, persisted after the agreement was signed, according to rights groups and aid workers in the region.
Eritrean troops remain in several border areas while militias from the neighboring Amhara region occupy large swathes of territory in contested parts of western and southern Tigray, aid workers said.
The Eritrean government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. A spokesman for the Amhara regional government said the government and the people of Amhara were “always ready to cooperate with the peace agreement process and activities”.