On January 5, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Eritrea for a two-day visit to the African country as part of a larger round of meetings in the region.

The minister met with President Isaias Afwerki and discussed various industrial and infrastructure development projects, including in particular those connected with the potential role of the ports of Massawa and Assab.

On the same day, during the meeting with the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Osman Saleh, a joint statement was issued in which the two countries affirmed their opposition to hegemonic interference by international players under the pretext of democracy and human rights, referring – without ever naming them – to both the United States and the European Union. The reference, in particular, is attributable to the development of the conflict in Ethiopia in the regional state of Tigray, and the consequences suffered by Eritrea in terms of international blame, sanctions and progressive isolation.

China affirmed its opposition to the sanctions policy, while Eritrea reiterated its support for the one-China policy, reaffirming – again without naming it – its disavowal of Taiwan’s independence.

During the meeting, Minister Wang Yi reiterated the need to strengthen synergies in order to achieve the objectives outlined in the “nine programs” set out at the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on Cooperation between China and Africa, while Eritrean Minister Osman Saleh, in confirming Eritrea’s commitment to the programs, specifically mentioned the intention to strengthen cooperation in the area of infrastructure, ports and industrial parks.

The visit of Chinese Minister Wang Yi has renewed, especially in the United States, the conviction of a concrete interest of Beijing in entering into the management of Eritrea’s port infrastructures, within the more general strengthening of the logistics system connected to the development of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. The fear of the United States is that China may also be granted a berth for the units of its navy, especially in the port of Assab, which, although close to the Chinese base already active in Djibouti, has modern infrastructures built recently by the United Arab Emirates.

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