Italy business delegation visits Addis
Italy has been ruled out as a possible mediator in the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Grum Abay, Director General for European relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said they previously believed that Italy’s senior membership in the EU and previous involvement with Eritrea as a colonial power would give it leverage. However the government has rejected that idea.
He said Ethiopia doesn’t object to Italy being a mediator in the conflict between the two countries but does not have high hopes that this would be successful.
“We also discussed bilateral dialogue between the two countries especially the relatively minor role of Italian investors in Ethiopia and how to increase that,” Grum told Capital.
The comment was made after the Italian minister of Foreign Affairs, Gulio Terzi Di Sant made a short visit with a group of business executives on May 3.
Grum also reiterated that Italy is working with Ethiopia on cases held by the Intergovernmental Authority on East African Development (IGAD) to better coordinate efforts between the two organizations.
The civil war in Somalia was a focus of discussions although it has been overshadowed by the dispute between the two Sudans.
The Security Council last week threatened sanctions on both South Sudan and Sudan if they don’t desist from violence and start a dialogue within 48 hours.
Hailemariam said both of them clarified the misunderstanding very well regarding the recent spat between the two countries about the remarks of the Italian Foreign ministry.
“We both understand that we have a legitimate right to defend ourselves in this regard and Italy’s position is the same as the EU which urges dialogue between us and Eritrea,” Hailemariam remarked.
Giulio agreeing in unison said Italy’s position is the same as the European Union (EU).
Italy had issued a statement condemning Ethiopia’s cross border attacks on alleged “terrorist camps” in Eritrea which it subsequently retracted and apologized by letter to the Ethiopian authorities.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry in a statement had said it was monitoring reports of an armed Ethiopian attack on Eritrean soil with deep concern, and firmly condemns all recourse to violence as a means for resolving disputes.
Giulio further said Italy has a pattern of dialogue and discussion on development, human rights and democratic practices with Ethiopia over the last two months.
“We’re encouraging dialogue between Asmara and Addis Ababa without putting the onus of responsibility on one or the other,” Giulio said.
Regarding the Somalia issue, Hailemariam however said the Ethiopian government hasn’t put a specific deadline for withdrawal of troops from the parts of South-central Somalia its forces have occupied but instead will depend on how fast the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) takes place.
Gulio reiterated the Italian government’s position which he said considers Ethiopia to be a strategic ally for this region in issues such as terrorism, piracy and as such is looking to establish a zone of partnership in the region.
The Italian Foreign minister also brought with him a select group of Chief Executive officers of major Italian companies as a continuation of the last March’s business meeting held in Rome.
Nine large Italian companies accompanying the Italian foreign minister came which had previously attended the March 7-9, 2012 Ethio-Italian business forum held in Rome, Italy discussing investment issues.
The Italian companies met with Ethiopian businesspeople as well as the Addis Ababa and Ethiopia chamber of commerce and sectoral associations. The companies consist from sectors such as shoes, leather, train transportation, sugar and finance.
In 2004 the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to exchange diplomatic visits and work more closely together.
Dina Mufti, spokesman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said the Ethiopian government has asked its Italian counterpart to tell investors about the huge potential in the floriculture, horticulture, fertilizer, sugar, pharmaceuticals and rail projects.
“We’ve in particular asked the Italian government to continue and strengthen its support for hydroelectric power projects in which the Italian firm Salini is firmly involved right now,” Dina told Capital.