Catherine Colonna in Ethiopia to support peace in Tigray

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Catherine Colonna in Ethiopia to support peace in Tigray

The heads of French and German diplomacy began a visit to Addis Ababa on Thursday to support peace in Tigray. During this two-day visit, which comes just after the Tigray rebels began to surrender their heavy weapons, Catherine Colonna and Annalena Baerbock are due to meet, in particular, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice as well as representatives of the African Union and human rights defenders.

They also planned to visit a distribution center of the World Food Program to observe the implementation of a Ukrainian donation of 50,000 tons of wheat to Ethiopia and Somalia, whose transport Paris and Berlin financed to the tune of 14 million euros each.

Main outstanding issue: the withdrawal of the Eritrean army

After two years of a fratricidal war that has displaced more than two million Ethiopians and plunged hundreds of thousands of people into conditions close to starvation, the objective of Paris and Berlin is “to support the peace process” , said Cathrine Colonna on twitter.

The ministers are keen to convey the message of the EU, ready to reengage in Ethiopia provided that the ceasefire is respected and that a transitional justice mechanism is put in place. After the peace agreement, the delivery of humanitarian aid gradually resumed and basic services (electricity, banking, transport, etc.) are slowly being restored.

But residents and aid workers from various parts of Tigray recently told AFP that looting and persecution continued in the region. Main outstanding issue: the withdrawal of the Eritrean army which provided decisive assistance to the Ethiopian army during the conflict.

A “strong symbolic marker”

This country which borders the northern border of Tigray was not present at the discussions in Pretoria where the agreement of November 2 was signed. Another point of tension: the part of western Tigray invaded by the forces of the neighboring Ethiopian region Amhara. Administratively attached to Tigray, this fertile area is claimed as “ancestral land” by Amhara nationalists who make it a casus belli.

The Horn of Africa and Ethiopia in particular are among the priority partners for the EU, as China advances its pawns in the region, as illustrated by the visit earlier this week to Addis Ababa by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang. This joint trip by the two ministers is also a “strong symbolic marker”, before the celebrations on January 22 of the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, sealing Franco-German reconciliation. This is not the first time that heads of French and German diplomacy have made a joint visit abroad: there have already been many others, such as in May 2016, when Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank- Walter Steinmeier had traveled to the Sahel together.

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