Opening Remarks of Ato Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the FDRE At Ethiopia-Sudan High Level Political Committee Meeting Today
Your Excellency, Mr. Oumar Beshir Manis, Minister of Cabinet Affairs of the Republic of the Sudan,
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to express my deep appreciation to Your Excellency, the brotherly people and government of the Republic of the Sudan for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded to me and my delegation since our arrival in the beautiful city of Khartoum, our second home.
It is my great honor and pleasure to convey our warmest congratulation to the people and government of the Republic of the Sudan for being delisted from the state sponsors of terrorism.
Ethiopia strongly believes that this long overdue decision by the government of United States to remove Sudan from such a list and lifting of economic and financial sanction will pave the way for the Sudan to re-engage with its development partners in realizing the development aspiration of its people. It is indeed a clear recognition of the fact that the reform is on the right track and will open a new chapter for progress and prosperity of the country.
I wish also to commend the people and government of the Sudan for the Peace Agreement that was signed between the Transitional Government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front on October 3, 2020 in Juba and for the efforts of the Transitional Government in bringing durable peace in the country. I want to assure you Ethiopia’s firm commitment to support and accompany you in this important transition period.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the people and government of the Republic of the Sudan for the unwavering support and understanding for our law and order enforcement operation in the Tigray Region. In addition, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude for letting our citizens crossing your boarder and cordially hosting them. This is indeed a clear testimony of the longstanding fraternal relation between our two countries.
Excellency, I wish to seize this opportunity to inform you that the operation conducted by the Federal Government to restore law and order in the Tigray Region has been successfully completed. Now, the peace and security situation in the Tigray Region by in large is stable and the Interim Administration is on the ground engaging with the communities and restoring basic services. Therefore, I believe it is high time to let our citizens who had been sheltered in the Sudan since the law enforcement operation to begin returning to their homes and join their families. Ethiopia is ready to facilitate their voluntary return and providing the necessary support.
Excellency ladies and Gentelmen,
Ethiopia always attaches great importance to its relation with the people and government of the Sudan. The longstanding brotherly relations between our two countries and peoples are, of course, very well-known. We need to redouble our efforts to translate the strong bilateral relation into more strategic cooperation that would accelerate the economic integration of the two countries and bring concrete benefits to our peoples. We should aim to elevate our all rounded relations into a new and higher level for the mutual benefit of our two brotherly peoples.
This week, our Minister for Transport is visiting Sudan to discuss with her Sudanese counterpart the cooperation projects on port utilization and railway development. I believe this will help the two countries to further strengthen trade and investment flows. Similarly, last October the Sudanese business delegation was in Ethiopia to assess business and investment opportunities and held a fruitful discussion with their Ethiopian counterparts on the possibilities of joint venture. No doubt, all these engagements necessitate the need to reactivate various bilateral mechanisms with a view to further strengthening our cooperation across different sectors.
The role of border trade that involves and benefits communities around our common boarder is very crucial in ensuring peace and stability in the border area. We need to revise the existing preferential trade agreement and finalize the negotiations of the protocol on the rules of origin. I am glad to learn that border trade protocols between our two countries that were signed some twenty years ago are under discussion for revision to accommodate current realities. It is my strong belief that this will in turn help us to be part and benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will become operational starting from January 2021.
Excellency ladies and Gentelmen,
The principle of solidarity and fraternity has been one of the defining characteristics of our bilateral relations. The strong and longstanding ties between our two countries are intertwined and whatever happens in Ethiopia will certainly have spillover effect in the Sudan and vice versa. However, what has happened in our common boarder recently did not commensurate from this longstanding principle of solidarity and fraternity.
Starting from November 9, 2020, we are observing organized attacks by the Sudanese Military Forces using heavy machine guns and armored convoy. Agricultural products of Ethiopian farmers are looted, their camps are vandalized, and they are also hampered from harvesting their own farms. A number of civilians have been murdered and wounded. As a result, the government of Ethiopia is very much concerned by this recent development in the border areas. Furthermore, it is endangering the agreements we have reached to maintain the status quo in the area north of Mount Dagelish.
During our last meeting that was held in Addis Ababa from 16-18 May 2020, we had fruitful discussion and constructive engagements to address the boarder issues and maintain peace and security in order to forge positive interaction among our border communities. But, what we have witnessed recently did not resemble the cordial relation that exists between our two countries.
Therefore, it is our firm position that reactivating the existing mechanisms and finding an amicable solution on settlement and cultivation are the only way to bring lasting solution to the issues in our common boarder. We believe that securitization and unnecessary escalation will only worsen the situation and create pointless tension in the border area and disrupt daily activities of our peoples living in the border area.
I hope we will be able to continue our engagement on this issue with the spirit of fraternal cooperation and commitment that has always been a mark of the Ethiopia – Sudan relation.
Once again, I would like to reaffirm my government’s firm commitment to work closely with the Government of the Republic of the Sudan in all bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of common interest.
I am very hopeful and confident that we will have a very fruitful and productive discussion that will further enhance our fraternal relations.