United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday morning held talks with Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.
Ethiopia and US are discussing ways of consolidating the historical relations between the two countries, said a statement by the ministry of foreign affairs.
Blinken arrived in Addis Ababa late Tuesday, according to the state-run Ethiopian News Agency.
Upon arrival at the Bole International Airport, Blinken was welcomed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mesganu Arga and other senior government officials.
The Secretary of State is expected to meet senior government officials to discuss activities being carried out to ensure a durable peace in the northern part of the country and the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed between the federal government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
He will also meet with humanitarian aid operators and representatives of civil society organisations to discuss the delivery of humanitarian aid, food security and human rights issues in the affected communities in Ethiopia.
Mr Blinken will also meet the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat to discuss shared global and regional priorities as a follow-up on commitments from the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit.
"African nations are critical partners in food security, climate crisis, global health, human rights and peace," Blinken said, adding that African countries deserve greater representation on the global arena.
Blinken's visit intends to push to support the peace process but also to renew Washington-Addis ties which had been strained following a two-year bloody conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region.
Accountability for atrocities
Rights watchdogs had asked the US top diplomat to make accountability for atrocities central to his discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during his visit.
Ms Sarah Yager, the Washington Director at Human Rights Watch said: “The United States is well aware of the atrocities and ongoing abuses that have caused massive suffering in Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia for more than two years. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit is a crucial opportunity to put the warring parties on notice that the US will press for all sides to be held accountable for their crimes.
The Ethiopian government signed a peace deal with the TPLF in November, ending a two-year war that displaced more than two million and killed hundreds of thousands others.
HRW said millions of people across Ethiopia still suffer “from war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2020, they’re looking to Ethiopia’s partners like the US to pursue justice and redress for their loss.”
“Blinken should make clear to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that full US engagement with Ethiopia will depend on genuine accountability. Without justice, the cycle of violence and impunity will undermine efforts to promote the human rights of the Ethiopian people.”
But senior officials in the African affairs section of the US State Department have reportedly been pushing for the US to improve its relations with Ethiopia after the Tigray peace deal.
The officials argue that the US must take the necessary steps to ensure that it does not lose its role in the African continent, where the influence of Russia and China is expanding.
Molly Phee, the top US diplomat for Africa, said that Blinken's visit would aim to "help consolidate that peace" but cautioned that the US-Ethiopian relationship was not ready to go "back to normal."
She said that Ethiopia needed to take steps "to help break the cycle of ethnic political violence" if it wants to put the US relationship back on a "forward trajectory".
"The conflict that Ethiopia just endured was earth-shattering," she told reporters before departure.
"It involved terrible atrocities by all parties and was extremely disruptive to the country's stability and to its economy, which is also facing historic drought conditions."
Tigray conflict which broke out in November 2020 has claimed the lives of over 600,000 people and displaced millions more.
The conflict ended after TPLF and the Ethiopian government signed a peace deal in Pretoria last November.