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Eritrean President Afwerki in Beijing to strengthen the iron axis with Xi

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Monday, 15 May 2023

Eritrean President Afwerki in Beijing to strengthen the iron axis with Xi

Among the interests that Eritrea holds for China there is undoubtedly that linked to its geographical position: it overlooks the Red Sea and with an access to the north towards the Suez Canal and Europe

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki attend a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 15 2023. Picture: JOE CASH/REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki attend a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 15 2023. Picture: JOE CASH/REUTERS

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki arrived in Beijing last night for a four-day official visit at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. A visit, that of Afwerki, which comes at a significant stage, given that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Eritrea, and that Asmara intends to offer a significant contribution to the consolidation of bilateral relations between the two countries last year they were upgraded to a strategic partnership. The visit to Beijing is not the first visit of the long-standing Eritrean president to China: the last time, however, was back in 2006 for the third summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Especially in recent years, Beijing and Asmara have strengthened their already solid ties, as evidenced by the fact that in 2021 Eritrea joined the New Silk Road initiative, the maxi infrastructure project launched by Beijing in developing countries. "China is a trusted friend of Eritrea and wants to strengthen cooperation with Asmara especially in the context of the instability and uncertainties that characterize the current international landscape," Xi said at the end of an interview held today with Afwerki in the Great sala del popolo, confirming the deep ties that unite the two countries. Beijing, continued the Chinese leader, considers relations with Asmara "from a long-term perspective" and considers the progress of the strategic partnership "of great importance for the maintenance of regional peace, as well as international equity and justice".
Chinese Premier Li Qiang, right, and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki shake hands as they attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 15, 2023.
China "appreciates Eritrea's adherence to an independent foreign policy, firmly supports it in pursuing a development path consistent with its national conditions, as well as protecting its sovereignty, security and development interests," Xi added, reaffirming "resolute opposition" to external interference in the affairs of the African state. China is therefore willing to deepen all-round exchanges with Eritrea, especially in the sector of infrastructure, mining, telecommunications and agriculture, not neglecting a strengthening of exchanges along the New Silk Road useful for "establishing mutually beneficial cooperation and to pursue common development”. The "deep friendship" that binds the two countries was also testified by the assistance guaranteed by Asmara in the process of evacuating Chinese citizens from Sudan, Xi added, according to which respect, assistance and mutual understanding will continue to be the backbone of China-Africa relations, “despite the changes in the international landscape. Africa is a land of great promise. In the current (international) context, China and the Continent must never before strengthen solidarity and cooperation to overcome difficulties together. Therefore, China is willing to cooperate to carry on the traditional friendship with Africa, consolidate mutual strategic trust, provide the continent with new opportunities under the high-quality development and Chinese-style modernization undertaken by the leading Asian power, and promote thoroughly bilateral cooperation” to build a community with a shared future, Xi concluded.
The will to strengthen relations was also reaffirmed by the Chinese premier, Li Qiang, who in the conversation with Afwerki expressed the hope that Asmara and Beijing could "deepen mutually beneficial cooperation for all and continuously enrich their strategic partnership". For his part, Afwerki argued that "the contributions made by the People's Republic of China to transform the world order into a more just and equitable relationship between people and nations will surely cause global challenges and transform the systems we have." Afwerki's visit to Beijing follows a trip to Asmara by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in January. On that occasion, Lavrov was personally welcomed by the Eritrean president, to whom he expressed his request for international support in the context of the war started in Ukraine. The dialogue therefore focused on strengthening bilateral ties between Russia and Eritrea in the fields of energy, mining, information technology, education and health. In this sense, it should be remembered that Eritrea was the only African country - and one of five globally together with Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria - to vote against the UN resolution condemning the invasion of 'Ukraine.

Among the interests that Eritrea holds for China there is undoubtedly that linked to its geographical position: overlooking the Red Sea and with access to the north towards the Suez Canal and Europe, to the south-east on the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, Eritrea also borders Djibouti, a country where China opened its first military base abroad in 2017. The African country - one of the most closed in the world, in which the only legally present political party is President Afwerki's Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (Pfdj), although the Constitution provides for a multi-party system - has signed a protocol d understanding with China to join the BRI on November 25, 2021. China has been investing in Eritrea for some time, and at the end of 2019, the China Shanghai Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technological Cooperation (Sfeco) started the construction of a part of the 500 km road linking the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab, both of which have special economic zones. However, Eritrea is not yet a member of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCfta), which came into effect in 2021 and has since eliminated border tariffs between all other African countries, although this can be expected change with the growing Chinese influence. Chinese exports to Eritrea were only $71 million in 2020 and Eritrean exports negligible, partly due to the Ethiopian conflict. However, the country retains its strategic importance on the Red Sea.




ERi-TV, Eritrea - ጸብጻብ ዑደት ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቂ ኣብ ዋዕላ ደቡብ ኮርያ አፍሪቃ | Reportage on President Isaias Afwerki's visit to South Korea for the South Korea-Africa Summit, held from June 3-4

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