US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Ethiopia to “deepen the peace” in the war-torn north.
The top US diplomat was paying his first visit to the longstanding ally since the war in Tigray, which claimed some 500,000 lives according to US estimates.
“It is a very important moment, a moment of hope given the peace in the north that has taken hold,” he said on Wednesday.
“There is a lot to be done. Probably the most important thing is to deepen the peace that has taken hold in the north.”
Blinken said he hoped to restore cooperation “with the goal of strengthening the relationship” with Ethiopia, home of the African Union, amid a push by President Joe Biden to deepen relations with Africa.
Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, receiving Blinken, said: “We have longstanding relations and it is time to revitalise them and move forward”.
Following the meeting with Demeke, Blinken arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office for talks with Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was once seen as at the vanguard of a new generation of forward-looking African leaders, but whose reputation later took a beating in Washington over the war.
The violence erupted when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which once dominated Ethiopian politics, attacked military installations, prompting a major offensive by Abiy’s government with backing from neighbouring Eritrea.
The Tigray war has been one of the deadliest in the 21st century with a US-estimated toll higher than that from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has drawn far more global attention.
A key wish of Ethiopia is a return to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which gave it duty-free access for most products to the world’s largest economy, but the United States has made no commitments.