In an effort to repair the diplomatic relationships harmed by the fighting in Tigray, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke on Wednesday about efforts to achieve enduring peace there.
According to spokeswoman Ned Price, during their two and a half hour meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Blinken and Abiy also discussed the significance of holding all parties accountable for the horrors committed during the war.
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 US 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 displaced 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 extremist 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 US government imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and cut access to the US 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 US 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 the war.
In a press briefing this week, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee said getting US 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 neighbors Tigray, occupy large areas of territory in contested parts of western and southern Tigray, humanitarian workers said.
A spokesperson for the Amhara regional government said it and the people of Amhara were “always ready to cooperate with peace deal process and activities”.