Photo: Female students | Credit: UNHCR - Photo: 2020

German Foreign Minister Asks Ethiopian Counterpart to Stop the Fighting

By Jutta Wolf

BERLIN (IDN) – “Ethiopia needs a ceasefire,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen, at a meeting at the Foreign Office in Berlin on November 27. The talks focused on the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray.

According to the German Foreign Office, Ethiopia and Germany are partners with longstanding relations. Ethiopia is a priority country of German development cooperation. Germany is one of the biggest buyers of Ethiopian goods, primarily coffee and textiles. The main German exports to Ethiopia are finished products such as machinery, engines, motor vehicles, chemicals and medicines.

Ethiopian Airlines and DHL set up a joint venture in 2018. Volkswagen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ethiopian Investment Commission in late January 2019., the German Foreign Office stresses.

Under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, it adds, Ethiopia began a reform course in the country, and democratic change began in Ethiopia. After decades of irreconcilable conflict, peace was made with neighbouring Eritrea, for which Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

“It is now necessary to build on these positive developments,” emphasized Maas after his talks with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen. Germany is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

He added: “Thanks to the peace agreement with Eritrea and the courageous reforms, Ethiopia has also gained a lot of sympathy in Germany. The country can only be pacified by a political process that also continues Prime Minister Abiy’s reform course.”

Foreign Minister Maas is all the more concerned about the current situation in Ethiopia. Existing tensions in the country escalated at the beginning of November: In the north of the country, in the Tigray region. A military conflict broke out between the central government in Addis Ababa and the People’s Liberation Front of Tigray, TPLF. Human rights organizations report a massacre in the Mai Kadra region with 600 dead, currently the capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is at the centre of the conflict.

“In order to defuse the conflict, protect the civilian population in the country and secure access for humanitarian aid workers, both sides must first stop the fighting,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“In view of the announced access to the Tigrin capital Mekelle, it is clear to us that both sides must stop the violence. All sides must do their utmost to protect civilians and provide access to humanitarian aid.

“The suffering we see is dismaying: the crimes against civilians must be investigated and the guilty brought to justice. There must be no ethnicization of the conflict.”

Conflict can only be resolved through political process

In a next step, both sides must then come together for political talks in order to resolve the underlying conflict, Maas said. Germany supports the mediation offer of the African Union, which has sent three special envoys to Addis Ababa. Only through a sustained political process can the conflict be permanently resolved, and human suffering prevented.

Official sources said that Germany is already providing humanitarian aid that benefits people who are in need as a result of the conflict. Ethiopia and its neighbouring countries have already struggled with floods, locusts and Covid-19 this year, now the conflict is worsening the situation – numerous people are fleeing to neighbouring Sudan.

Germany has therefore increased its humanitarian aid for Ethiopia by 5 million euros. The funds are made available to the humanitarian country fund and thus helpers on site in order to take care of people who have lost their homes or had to flee the fighting.

Almost 20 million people in Ethiopia were dependent on humanitarian aid even before the conflict began. In 2020, Germany has provided a total of over 30 million euros for humanitarian aid in Ethiopia, the sources said.

Growing international concern was underlined by informal talks in the UN Security on the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on November 24. The meeting was held despite disagreement between European and African members over whether the closed-door discussion should take place.

“The meeting was briefly in doubt after African countries pulled out, but diplomats from France, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Estonia forced the talks to go ahead,” reported the Germany’s public state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

“South Africa asked for time so that the envoys can conduct their consultations and refer the matter to the African Union. A statement could complicate the situation,” an African diplomat said after the session.

A European diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Europeans “expressed their concerns, condemned violence of an ethnic nature and demanded protection of civilians,” during the session that lasted one hour 20 minutes. The meeting ended without members issuing a statement. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 November 2020]

Photo: Mekelle palace of Emperor Yohannes IV (emperor of the whole Ethiopian Empire). Credit: Alexander Savin, Wikimedia Commons.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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