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NewsBlinken’s impending visit elevates reengagement hopes

Blinken’s impending visit elevates reengagement hopes

Pretoria Agreement, new aid package, and debt restructuring on the agenda

The upcoming visit to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has raised hopes for normalization and reengagement. Blinken is slated to meet with Ethiopian officials to discuss a number of concerns and introduce a fresh round of humanitarian aid.

The secretary of state will travel to Ethiopia and Niger between March 14 and 17, according to a statement issued by Ned Price, spokesperson for the US Department of State. The implementation of the cessation of hostilities signed between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the federal government will be high on the agenda. Blinken will also meet with humanitarian partners and civil society actors to discuss humanitarian assistance, food security, and human rights, according to Ned.

While in Addis Ababa, Blinken will also meet with Moussa Faki, chairperson of the African Union Commission. However, several pending agenda items await the Secretary of State in Addis Ababa.

Humanitarian aid for the country has been distorted by ongoing conflict and drought. Debt restructuring discussions, according to insiders, will also be high on the agenda.

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The scope of US offerings will be determined after an evaluation of the Pretoria agreement’s progress, According to information obtained by The Reporter. The US Congress has reservations about the Ethiopian government’s delivery of aid to war-torn areas, in addition to worries about the status of the Agreement’s implementation.

“We have to ensure the Tigrayan people are actually receiving the US aid,” Congressman Brad Sherman urged the House Appropriations Committee yesterday.

Blinken is expected to announce the restoration of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as well, according to The Reporter’s sources. “AGOA has been under public scrutiny for a long time, and it can’t be announced just because Blinken visits Ethiopia. There is not even an ongoing process regarding reinstating AGOA at this moment.”

“Blinken will probably launch a new humanitarian aid package. Usually, foreign secretary visits are featured with signing ceremonies of negotiations and agreements already in the pipeline,” an official close to the issue said. The official claims Ethiopia gets nothing new just because Blinken comes.

“He will just confirm agreements that have already been finalized but remain in process. This is not a dedicated country tour specific to Ethiopia. It is an in-passing tour.”

During the US-Africa summit in December, Biden mentioned Blinken’s trip to the continent. Meles Alem (Amb.), spokesperson for foreign affairs, confirmed Blinken’s arrival in his weekly briefing on March 9, 2023, though he did not specify when Blinken would actually come.

Sources close to the matter claim there will be two points of discussion. The first is the implementation process of the Pretoria peace deal. The second point is the US’s stand on the IFIs debt restructuring. This includes discussions on the potential resumption of the International Monetary Fund’s new lending window and program. “The Ethiopia-Egypt relationship, Ethiopia-Sudan relationship, and GERD negotiation issues might also be tabled by Blinken.”

Federal authorities spent the week in Mekele discussing rehabilitation initiatives for TDF soldiers. Recent work on transitional justice by the Ethiopian government may also win it praise from the US. Yet, a source claimed that the US does not want to appear hypocritical by ignoring the human rights violations that occurred in the northern Ethiopian war. Drought in the Horn of Africa, funding for Africa, and encouraging Africa to reduce its ties to Russia are just some of the regional and geopolitical challenges that the tour aims to address.

In light of the diplomatic turf war between Russia and China, Blinken will convene a meeting at the AU to discuss how to repair deteriorating relations between the US and Africa. He will meet with Mousa Faki to discuss next steps toward fulfilling Biden’s pledges made at the US-Africa summit in December.

At the meeting, Biden’s government committed USD 55 billion. Biden also gave Blinken the authority to establish the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement (PAC-ADE), consisting of representatives from the African American and African Diaspora immigrant communities.

The PAC-ADE operates under the auspices of the State Department.

At the December summit, Biden announced that in 2023, he will travel to Africa, becoming the first sitting US president to visit sub-Saharan Africa since President Obama in 2015.

In addition to Blinken, the President has said he will send First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen.

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