Diplomacy at play!

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Ethiopia was going through unwarranted pressure in the last few years that was punctuated by diplomatic rows with some entities or nations in the Western hemisphere of the globe. Some countries or blocs had been painting scathing portraits of the country’s internal situation. And some entities even went so far as to issue defamatory statements directed at the Ethiopian government, though the latter largely saw them as acts of external intervention and violations of the country’s sovereignty.

With some nations or blocs putting in place sanctions, the country’s diplomatic clout has partly been damaged and is also portrayed in the global media as a place of conflict and human suffering. But many argue that though the internal conflict in the country brought unimaginable human suffering and property loss, the diplomatic pressure from some nations or entities has been a far cry, and they try to see it from the vested interests of the countries. From the United Nations Security Council to the European Union, Ethiopia has been high on the agenda of the international community, mainly for wrong characterization.

The string of statements obviously damaged the global reputation, though the country was able to fend off the pressures and never succumb to external interests. Amidst the pressure, the country has been trying to strike a balance in its diplomatic engagement with all actors in the world. However, there has been a U-turn following the Pretoria agreement, in which Ethiopia peacefully ended the two-year bloodshed in the northern part of the country. The AU-brokered and self-initiated peace deal has been imperative in improving the country’s diplomatic relations with the international community. Since the guns were silenced in the country, diplomatic confrontations have been replaced with cooperation.

The country’s name had been included in major international or partnership gatherings. Suffice to mention the US Africa Summit and Russia Africa Forum, which are solid indicators that Africa’s capital is back on the world stage after years marred by rifts. The old good days of the country’s diplomatic relations seem to be in play. This year, the country was picked as a new member of the BRICS alliance together with Egypt, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirate.

In addition, with sanctions suspended, the country has been a stop for various leaders around the world. Prime ministers, foreign secretaries, and heads of state have been including in their itinerary a testimony to the country’s central role in regional, continental, and global relations. In fact, Addis Ababa has been playing a leading role in global affairs like climate change, Africa’s representation in international institutions, and peace and security. This and the country’s regional role have made it the major destination of foreign leaders, with many countries showing a desire to work with the seat of the Africa Union.

Equally, Addis Ababa has been keen to foster strong relations with the international community across the aisle. In what could be said as a diplomatic success, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has paid visits to countries in the west and east as well, either on invitation or initiation. And a few weeks ago, Abiy stopped in Riyadh, where he took part in the Saudi-Africa Summit while also holding sideline talks with African and other leaders, and this week he arrived in Europe for an official state visit.

He received a warm welcome in Austria, a landlocked country in central Europe like Ethiopia. The diplomatic tour signified the improved engagement of the country with the outside world. In Vienna, the Premier and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer discussed issues that could further strengthen Ethio-Austria relations, according to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Office Press Secretary Billene Seyoum said the premier and the Chancellor had a discussion Monday on the sidelines of the 20th UNIDO General Conference.

PM Abiy and Chancellor Nehammer exchanged views on ways of strengthening Ethio-Austria ties and development cooperation, among others. The experience the premier shared at the UNIDO conference has enabled Ethiopia to be seen as a symbol of reform, Billene said.

During the discussion, the two leaders also raised issues that could further strengthen the relationship between Ethiopia and Austria. Moreover, they have agreed to focus on new areas of cooperation, the press secretary stated.

Government Communication Service Minister Legesse Tulu, on his part, said that Ethiopia was recognized for its efforts in ensuring food security at the UNIDO General Conference. Prime Minister Abiy presented Ethiopia’s experience as a special guest at the conference.

One of the challenges facing developing countries is the problem of food security, the minister said, adding that a lack of funds for their efforts in improving infrastructure provision and the lives of citizens is another.

He stated that countries have been making many policy reforms to solve these problems, and the conference focused on issues that help developing countries overcome these problems. As Ethiopia is a spearheading country in this regard, the Prime Minister presented Ethiopia’s experience to the conference, the minister noted.

Ethiopia, during the last five years, has carried out various activities to improve alternative energy supply based on green development and ensure food security. As a result, Legesse pointed out that the country received recognition from the conference for its efforts in ensuring agriculture-centered integrated industry.

Since Ethiopia has a different experience from developing countries, especially in exporting wheat beyond ensuring food security, the premier shared this experience with the world community as well as developing countries, he added.

The Prime Minister has called on rich countries to strengthen their assistance and speed up the development journey that Ethiopia has started, an Ethiopian news agency reported.

Moreover, State Minister of Government Communication Service Selamawit Kassa recently announced in her video message that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is embarking on a productive working visit to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The purpose of the visit is to further enhance the longstanding relations between the two countries.

She highlighted the recent visit of Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala to Ethiopia a few weeks ago, during which discussions were held on various areas of mutual interest, including defense, health, culture, and tourism. The prime minister expressed his pleasure in the growing partnership between the two nations.

During Prime Minister Abiy’s current visit, his Czech counterpart acknowledged Ethiopia as one of their key international partners, among six countries. This recognition sets the stage for collaboration between the two nations in the areas of tourism, heritage protection, and research, she added.

Selamawit also revealed that Prime Minister Abiy visited the renowned national museum in Prague, which boasts a rich history. Impressed by the preservation of Czech culture and history for future generations, Abiy expressed his desire for Ethiopia to learn from this experience and create a national narrative that fosters unity. He extended an invitation to Czech experts to share their knowledge and assist in establishing a national museum in Ethiopia.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Abiy engaged in bilateral talks with his Czech counterpart, focusing on strengthening relations between their respective countries. Emphasizing the historical ties between the two nations, the leaders underscored the importance of replicating this cooperation in other sectors. Notably, they discussed the significant role of governmental relations in enhancing people-to-people connections, particularly within the tourism sector. In an effort to promote Ethiopian culture, Prime Minister Abiy proposed hosting an exhibition at the Prague National Museum, which received a positive response from Czech authorities, she elucidated.

Selamawit also highlighted discussions aimed at boosting trade relations between the two countries. Specifically, they explored the possibility of establishing direct flights, including cargo services, by Ethiopian Airlines into Prague. The defense sector, particularly air force training and capacity building, was also a focal point of their talks, as both nations acknowledged their strong ties and expressed the desire to further strengthen this cooperation.

She added that to facilitate the implementation of the agreements reached at the leadership level, the two countries agreed to establish a joint economic cooperation commission.

The Prime Minister’s visit to the countries is a vivid sign that the country is fully back on the world stage and that its diplomatic ties with the global community have shown a positive change. However, the impact of the last three years still drags on. With AGOA in place, Ethiopia should do more to engage with the external world in order to solicit the required finance and support to reel from the impact of the conflict. In this case, cooperation is vital to the diplomatic relations between countries. Yet, cooperation should not be equated with intervention. As witnessed in many instances, there is room for countries to cooperate by involving themselves in one another’s internal affairs.

BY EYUEL KIFLU

The Ethiopian Herald November 30/2023

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