China on Monday offered to play the role of mediator to resolve disputes in the Horn of Africa, on the opening day of a regional gathering in the Ethiopian capital.
The China-Horn of Africa Conference on security, Governance and Development is the first of its kind and underscores Beijing’s determination to play a greater role in a region beset by conflict and security issues.
“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, Beijing’s first special envoy for the Horn of Africa.
He said it was important to “respect countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from interfering in other countries’ internal affairs… reject abuse of unilateral sanctions”.
“China is convinced that countries in the Horn have… (the ability)… to resolve differences through dialogue and consultations,” Xue said.
Redwan Hussein, national security adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said China was playing a “supportive role” in the region and that solutions to the various crises “should come from within”.
Ethiopia itself has been wracked by conflict in the north between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November 2020 that has killed untold numbers of people and triggered a humanitarian crisis affecting millions.
Abiy last week for the first time signalled he was open to negotiate with the TPLF, with a lull in fighting since a truce in March, while the rebels have spoken of possible talks in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Xue was appointed to his role in February, shortly after a visit to Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The China-Horn conference, which wraps up on Tuesday, is being attended by representatives from Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda as well as Ethiopia and China — but with the notable exception of Eritrea.
China has a military base in Djibouti, its only one in Africa, as well as a port, aimed at securing its vast economic interests in the region.