East Africa: News – Abiy, Blinken Discuss Urgent Need for Withdrawal of Eritrean Forces, US Wants Access By International Human Rights Monitors

Addis Abeba — In the first ever in-person meeting held between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two “discussed the urgent need for all Eritrean forces to leave Ethiopia,” as the US urged “access to the conflict areas by international human rights monitors,” the State Department said.

The discussion on Tuesday took place in Washington D.C. on the sides of the ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit.

Secretary Blinken welcomed the progresses made with regard to the implementation of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement reached between the federal government and Tigrayan authorities on 02 November in Pretoria, South Africa, followed shortly by the Nairobi, Kenya, meeting between the top military leaders from the two sides, which provided “detailed modalities” on the implementation of the Pretoria agreement.

“Secretary Blinken commended steps taken by the Ethiopian government to improve humanitarian access and begin restoration of essential services” the statement said. But he urged for “accelerated implementation of the agreement and access to the conflict areas by international human rights monitors,” according to the readout.

Secretary Blinken’s call for “accelerated implementation” of the peace accord, which includes the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, comes as the deadline set for the disarmament of Tigrayan combatants came to pass on 02 December, 30 days form the signing of the Pretoria CoHA, as well as persistent concerns that “Eritrean forces continue to massacre civilians in Tigray, Ethiopia despite the peace agreement.”

On 05 December, General Tadesse Worede, the commander of Tigray Forces said that despite the presence of security challenges due to the continued presence of Eritrean forces and forces from the neighboring Amhara region, nearly 65% of Tigray’s armed combatants were disengaged from front lines as part of efforts to implement the peace accord.

The Ethiopian government on its part claims that in coordination with international development partners, it was facilitating unfettered humanitarian supplies to the Tigray region in three corridors, through Gonder and Kombolcha corridors in Amhara regional state, and the Semera corridor in Afar regional state.

The Abiy-Blinken meeting readout repeated the Nairobi implementation agreement, but unlike the reference of “foreign forces” in the document, the readout explicitly mentioned “Eritrean forces to leave Ethiopia, which is to happen concurrently with disarmament of Tigrayan combatants.” However, the readout failed to mention the concurrent withdrawal of “non-ENDF forces” from Tigray, the other condition stated in the agreement and is linked to the heavy weapons disarmament by Tigrayan combatants.

Similarly, Secretary Blinken’s call for “international human rights monitors” to access conflict areas comes in the backdrop of the Ethiopian government’s opposition to allow access international rights experts to conduct independent investigations into atrocities committed in the war.

Furthermore, Article 10 of the CoHA under sub-article 3 stated that “The Government of Ethiopia shall implement a comprehensive national transitional justice policy aimed at accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims, reconciliation, and healing, consistent with the Constitution of FDRE and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework”, drawing criticisms from rights groups for relegating the issue of justice and accountability as less priority.

“Strengthening our partnership”

Following the meeting PM Abiy tweeted saying that he “held a candid and productive meeting” with Secretary Blinken, expressing “appreciation to the US for their contribution in our [Ethiopia’s] efforts to achieve peace”.

“For decades Ethiopia has been a key ally of the US in Africa, and we discussed ways of strengthening our partnership” PM Abiy added.

The PM’s statement was further strengthened by his Security Advisor, Ambassador Redwan Hussien, who added that the discussion “stressed the need to resetting ties and partnership with USA.”

The US stated its repeated stand that “it remains committed to supporting the African Union-led peace process, including the AU monitoring and verification mechanism of the peace agreement.” In a tweet separate from the official readout, Secretary Blinken said that he discussed with PM Abiy Ahmed “the measurable progress made so far on implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the positive impact full implementation by all parties of the Pretoria & Nairobi agreements will have on Ethiopia’s recovery.”AS

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