Focus on Tigray: Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen
Foreign Minister Maas meets with his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen,, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.de
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas today received Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, for talks at the Federal Foreign Office. Their discussions focused on the conflict in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia: “Ethiopia needs a ceasefire,” Maas emphasised.
Ethiopia and Germany are partners with a long history of relations. Under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia had embarked on a course of national reforms, and Ethiopia began to experience democratic change. After decades of irreconcilable conflict, the country concluded a peace agreement with its neighbour Eritrea, and in 2019 Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this accomplishment. These positive developments now need to be continued, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasised after his meeting with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen:
Ethiopia has garnered much sympathy, also in Germany, for the peace agreement it concluded with Eritrea and for pursuing courageous domestic reforms. The only thing that can bring peace to the country is a political process that ultimately continues the course of reform launched by Prime Minister Abiy.
Foreign Minister Maas therefore expressed all the more concern about the current situation in Ethiopia. In early November, existing tensions in the country came to a head. In the northern region of Tigray, a military conflict erupted between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). According to human rights organisations, a massacre occurred in the vicinity of Mai Kadra in which 600 people were killed; the conflict is currently focused on Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.
“Ethiopia needs a ceasefire”
Minister Maas stressed that, to defuse the conflict, protect the country’s civilian population and ensure access of humanitarian workers, both sides must, as a first step, end all acts of violence:
After the announcement that Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle is about to be captured, we clearly believe that both sides must end all acts of violence. All sides must do everything in their power to protect civilians and to ensure access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
We are shocked by the suffering that we see: crimes against the civilian population must be investigated, and those responsible must be called to account. This must not become an ethnic conflict.
The conflict can only be ended through a political process
As a next step, both sides must engage in political talks to resolve the underlying conflict. Germany therefore supports the mediation offer by the African Union, which has sent three special representatives to Addis Ababa. Only a durable political process can permanently end the conflict and prevent human suffering.
Humanitarian assistance increased by 5 million euro
Germany is already providing humanitarian assistance that is helping those in need due to the conflict. So far this year, Ethiopia and its neighbours have faced flooding, a locust plague and COVID‑19. Now, the conflict is making this situation even more challenging – and many people are fleeing to neighbouring Sudan.
Germany has therefore increased its humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia by 5 million euro. The funding is being made available to the Country-Based Pooled Fund and thus to aid workers on the ground, so that they can help those who have lost their homes or who have been forced to flee the fighting.
Even before the start of the conflict, almost 20 million people in Ethiopia were dependent on humanitarian assistance. Germany has now made available a total of more than 30 million euro for humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia in 2020.