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China says ready to mediate for Horn of Africa peace

This is Beijing's first attempt to sell its vision for peace in a region with so much strategic importance and where many interests collide   -  
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AP Photo -

Ethiopia

China offered Monday its mediation for the settlement of "disputes" in the Horn of Africa, at the opening of a conference with the countries of this region plagued by conflicts where it has many interests, noted a journalist from AFP.

The first conference "China-Horn of Africa on security, governance and development" brings together until Tuesday in Addis Ababa China, represented by its special envoy for the Horn of Africa Xue Bing, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda, represented by a minister or an ambassador. Eritrea, invited, was not present.

"I am ready to provide mediation for the peaceful settlement of disputes, based on the will of the countries in this region," said Xue Bing, whose appointment in February showed Beijing's determination to get involved diplomatically in this region plagued by various conflicts, including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan.

"We have learned from history that the Horn of Africa should not become the backyard of any country," said the Chinese special envoy, "recalling that "many had suffered" from "colonial domination" and that the "confrontations of the Cold War had brought on the continent the burns of war.

He called for "avoiding interference in the internal affairs of other countries" and "rejecting the abuse of unilateral sanctions.

The United States withdrew Ethiopia in November from a major trade agreement, the Agoa, because of human rights abuses in the conflict between the government and rebels in the Tigray region since November 2020, and imposed sanctions on Eritrea in 2021 because of its involvement in the conflict.

During a visit to Asmara in January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed China's opposition to U.S. sanctions against Eritrea, a closed country living under an authoritarian regime.

Mr. Xue said he was "convinced" that the Horn of Africa has the capacity to "resolve its differences through dialogue and consultation", even if "some differences are difficult to understand because they date back to colonial times".

He also announced China's availability to support various projects in food security, health, transportation, trade promotion or capacity building.

"This initiative belongs to, is directed, managed and piloted by the countries of the Horn, and China has only a supporting role," said Redwan Hussein, National Security Advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, opening the meeting.

"These are our problems (...) and the solution (...) must come from within. The success or failure of this conference will depend on us and nobody else," he added.

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