ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
ADDIS ABABA UNIVERSITY
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
MARCH 16, 2023
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary of State. Thank you for having us here. Thank you for visiting Ethiopia at this critical time. It means a lot and it shows a really – the maintained, longstanding relationship. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, thank you for having me this evening. Good to speak with you.
QUESTION: I’ll go directly to my questions. You are here assisting in the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement, speaking with different stakeholders and officials. In this agreement, how do you see the Ethiopian Government standing this implementation of the agreement? Its commitment, to be specific.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think what we’ve seen with the agreement and its implementation so far is very significant and very important progress, both in saving lives and in changing lives. The fact is the guns are silent, the humanitarian assistance is moving into Tigray, services are being restored, the TPLF is putting down its weapons, and external forces are departing. At the same time, what I heard from the government today was not only a commitment to seeing that process through, but also other critical parts of the agreement, to include standing up a credible, inclusive transitional justice process to make sure that there’s reconciliation as well as accountability for the tremendous damage that was done.
This is so important because making sure that peace endures, is sustainable – that’s a necessary part of it.
QUESTION: Yeah. Now, as you said, it’s a process, and it’s been going well. And one of the benefits of this peace agreement is peace and saving lives, and one is the benefit of partnership between Ethiopia and the U.S. And to be specific again, one is AGOA. And will Washington consider this opportunistic and meaningful trade opportunities since Ethiopia is on the implementation of this peace process?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, let me say a couple of things. First, stepping back, even during the last two years with the conflict and violence in northern Ethiopia, our partnership, our engagement with the Ethiopian people has continued. Just over the last three years – to go back to 2020 – we provided about $3 billion in humanitarian assistance. We remain the largest humanitarian supporter for Ethiopia. Just today I announced an additional $331 million in humanitarian assistance focused on food security for those who most desperately need it because they’re affected by conflict or by drought.
So that partnership has continued throughout. At the same time, as the agreement is fully implemented and as all the parties sustain the work that they need to do – to include, as I mentioned, the transitional justice – that will allow us to strengthen and increase our own partnership, including on economic development.
When it comes to AGOA, under the law we suspended Ethiopia more than a year ago because of the human rights violations in Tigray. And there’s a clear pathway back to AGOA, and the work that is being done to implement the agreement very much is moving Ethiopia along that pathway. One of the things that I heard today, for example, from human rights experts, monitors who are present in Tigray, has been a significant decrease in human rights abuses by anyone in Tigray. That’s significant. As that is sustained and it goes down even further, that will be very important. But we want to work – as the process of implementing the peace agreement moves forward, we want to move forward in continuing to strengthen the relationship with Ethiopia in all areas but particularly when it comes to economic development.
QUESTION: One of the relationship is working together along with the Ethiopian Government. You are going to meet with African Union officials (inaudible) —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: — regarding the integration of regions in other efforts. Now, Ethiopia being a leader and an actor – an active actor of Horn of Africa and hosting refugees, fighting terrorists along with the U.S. – I mean, there’s some sort of involvement or support from the United States in working along with the Ethiopian Government to address issues in this region.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first the fact that Ethiopia hosts the African Union is in and of itself significant, and I think that is also evidence and testimony of the centrality of Ethiopia to the Horn of Africa, but for that matter, to the continent as a whole, which is another reason why we want to make sure that peace takes hold and that it really endures. That will allow Ethiopia to play the role that it should be playing as a leader in Africa and, for that matter, beyond. Our partnership with the African Union is also very important to us. We had the Africa Leaders Summit at the end of last year in Washington, and the AU, of course, is an important participant in that.
But in terms of the work that we’re doing across the continent, whether it’s in dealing with some of the big transnational challenges that are affecting people everywhere, from climate change to food insecurity to energy prices to health and COVID – but also economic development and issues of peace and security where there are many challenges, the AU is a critical partner, and Ethiopia has, of course, a major role to play and one that we want to see it playing in the months and years ahead.
QUESTION: Again, you talk about being an actor of – as you said, African Union is here. You personally are supporting the idea of Africa getting its permanent representation in (inaudible).
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: How do you underscore the U.S. support? What is its contribution to Africa to get its permanent representation in multilateral bodies like UN Security Council?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, for us, it is almost self-evident that so much of the future is in Africa. When we look at the demographics and look at the – at the fact that in the – over the course of the next couple of decades, one out of four people on Earth will be African. When we look at the fact that this is one of the youngest populations overall in the world, the future is being built here. And our desire is to make sure that we’re helping to build it with Africa, but that also means that Africa’s voice needs to be heard in these major international organizations, to include the United Nations Security Council, to include groups like the G20.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: President Biden strongly supports that. He’s made that clear both at the Africa Leaders Summit and on other occasions, and we’ll be working toward both of those objectives over the next months.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you for meeting us here again. It means a lot to us and to everybody. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks so much.