China says the Ethiopian government is capable of managing the conflict in Tigray, becoming one of few actors to oppose what Beijing says is foreign interference in the Horn country.
Chinese State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country opposes international pressure on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed without the same being applied on rebel groups to follow the law.
A press statement issued after Wang’s meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen said China was “closely following the situation in Ethiopia and opposes attempts by external forces to impose their political interest in the domestic affairs of Ethiopia”.
“It takes two hands to clap…TPLF should have accepted the peace overtures extended by the Ethiopian government,” the statement said on Wednesday.
Mr Wang, on his first tour of Ethiopia since the conflict erupted last year between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), was in line with China’s usual policy of non-interference.
But it also came two weeks after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to neighbouring Kenya and called on both parties to halt the violence and choose dialogue.
But as opposed to the US, which has dangled sanctions on Ethiopian warring parties, China says it is confident the Ethiopian government is able to “take things under control and protect all Ethiopians and Chinese citizens residing in the country”.
“China’s confidence in the government of Ethiopia to stabilise situations in the country is demonstrated through my visit to Ethiopia today and China’s restraint from blindly accepting the alarmist calls of the evacuation of citizens from Addis Ababa,” the readout added.
The Ethiopian government sees Wang’s visit as a crucial rubber-stamp to its authority, given the latest pressures from the West, including the European Union, for PM Abiy to sit down with the TPLF and talk.
Mr Demeke said China and Ethiopia were “strategic” friends who respect equality, mutual interest, and trust between the two countries and that the ties between them are “principled”.
He spoke as the African Union said a ceasefire is still the basic step for resolving the conflict.
“We continue to engage the parties but unfortunately the hostilities continue,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission chairperson said on Wednesday.
“An immediate ceasefire and political dialogue is the only way to resolve this conflict. President Obasanjo is and will continue his mediation efforts with parties to the conflict in Ethiopia,” he added, referring to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the AU’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa.
Among Obasanjo’s many tasks is to convince the TPLF and allied armed groups and the government of Ethiopia to choose dialogue.
Demeke said his country will accept the peace bids as offered through the African Union, but still labelled the TPLF as the belligerent party to the conflict and which rejected early overtures for dialogue such as an earlier humanitarian ceasefire declared in June.