FM Demeke Holds Talks with EU Special Envoy to Horn of Africa

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, on Monday held a meeting with Annette Weber, European Union special representative for the Horn of Africa, over various regional and national issues.

The two sides discussed the 6th general elections in Ethiopia, the filling of the GERD and the ongoing tripartite negotiation, the humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray, and the Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute, according to the Ministry of Foreign affairs.

During the meeting, Demeke, who is also Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, explained to Weber about Ethiopia’s role “as a linchpin of the volatile region”.

He also “stressed that EU should appreciate encouraging results and act in a positive manner instead of putting unnecessary pressure on the Ethiopian government”, the minister twitted on Tuesday.

Demeke raised the recent general elections held in Ethiopia as positive development saying it was conducted in a peaceful and credible manner, said Ethiopian foreign Ministry in a statement issued after Monday’s talk.

The federal government of Ethiopia has crafted a road map to closely work with competing political parties, he added.

On issue of Tigray

Discussing the development in Tigray, Demeke said the central government declared the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray to closely work with the international community for better humanitarian access and strengthen the effort to rehabilitate and rebuild the region.

The TPLF, a group labeled as a terrorist entity by Ethiopia’s parliament, has been spoiling the spirit of the ceasefire by engaging in various military attacks, the Foreign Minister said, adding the group is exploiting the public as human shields, obstructing humanitarian support, and employing children as soldiers.

The Government is committed to take the necessary action against whoever hinders the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire, Demeke told the envoy.

He also took the opportunity to express his governments disappointment over EU’s role in “spearheading a premature and politically motivated Resolution” on the situation of human rights in the Tigray Region.

The action overlooked Ethiopia’s agreement on the deployment of a joint investigation team comprising the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Higher Commission for Human Rights, according to the Minister.

On the GERD

The construction of the 6,500-MW hydroelectric dam started in April 2011 on the Blue Nile river in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State in proximity to the Ethiopia-Sudan border.

However, the project has been a source dispute since then among the three Nile-bounded countries of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.

The three countries have been in talks for years, under the umbrella of the African Union, over the technical and legal issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD. The EU is playing an observing role in the negotiation.

Speaking to Weber, Foreign Minister Demeke said Ethiopia expects the EU to hold a neutral position as an observer of the process.

Ethiopia completed the second filling of the dam on Monday with the help of the rainy season in the East African country and plans to start producing electricity within at least two-months.

The filling was carried out as per the agreement on Declaration of Principles (DOP) which was signed on March 23, 2015 by the then heads of states of the three countries, he said, without causing appreciable harm to the downstream countries.

Ethio-Sudan Border Dispute

The discussion between the two sides also included the Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute where the Deputy Prime Minister said Sudan has imposed its claims by force which is a flagrant violation of international law and the principles and purposes of the UN Charter.

He has called on the European Union to condemn Sudan for its aggression and call for a return to the status quo to pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the border dispute, he added.

EU Special Representative Weber, for her part, said the EU wants the joint investigation into human rights abuses to be expedited, according to the ministry of foreign affairs statement.

She also expressed the EU’s concerns over the possibility of a humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region, the ministry’s statement reads.