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"We found our discussions with Eritrean government officials to be very positive" US Asst. Sec. Nagy

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. with President Isaias Afwerki

The following transcript was taken from a press briefing on U.S. Policy in Africa with Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.:


MODERATOR: Thank you, Assistant Secretary Nagy. We will begin the question and answer portion of the call. When we call on you to ask a question, if you could provide your name and affiliation, and limit yourself, if you would, to one question covering the Assistant Secretary’s trip, as well as Africa policy.

For those of you listening in French or Portuguese, you can continue to send questions via email to afmediahub@state.gov. As I said, we have a number of questions received in advance. You mentioned, sir, your visit to Eritrea and we have a question from Radio France International in Kenya, asking: Did you raise the dire human rights record with the Eritrean government, and what was their response?

ASST. SEC. NAGY: We discussed the full range of interests between the two countries, both externally and internally. I’m not going to go into any specifics, but rest assured that the human rights considerations are very much a part of U.S. consideration in our bilateral relationship with Eritrea.

Overall, let me say this about Eritrea: our intention is, hopefully, to get to the point where our relations with Eritrea are just as warm and cordial as our relations with Ethiopia, because both countries are vitally important. In many respects they complement each other, so that is the goal that we are pursuing. It will be step-by-step. It will obviously take time, but we felt that this initial opening dialogue was very important. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: [INAUDIBLE] Horn of Africa [INAUDIBLE] and what type of relationship do you envision establishing with Eritrea and in what specific areas or sectors are you looking to work with Eritrea?

ASST. SEC. NAGY: I’m sorry, I did not get the gist of the question. Brian, did you?

MODERATOR: No, let me ask the journalist. If you could introduce yourself again and state your question again. I heard “Eritrea” but we couldn’t pick up the question. It’s not a great connection.

QUESTION: My name is [INAUDIBLE] from the Eritrea Profile newspaper. Ambassador Nagy, [INAUDIBLE] and moving forward, what is the specific role of the U.S. in the Horn of Africa, and what kind of relationship do you envision establishing with Eritrea, and what specific areas and sectors are you looking forward to work?

ASST. SEC. NAGY: Okay, I did hear the part about what specific relations we look forward to establishing with Eritrea. As I said in my introductory comments, I hope that in the not-too-distant future, the United States of America can have the same warm, cordial relationship with Eritrea that we have with Ethiopia.

We found our discussions with Eritrean government officials to be very positive. We talked about a number of issues of mutual interest, including the possibility of U.S. companies investing in Eritrea, because we all recognize that Eritrea needs urgently to create jobs for its many young people, and beyond that we agreed that it’s going to be a step-by-step moving forward, and we look forward to continuing that discussion, both in Asmara and in Washington.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Ambassador. Go ahead, sir.

ASST. SEC. NAGY: He also mentioned the Horn of Africa. On the Horn of Africa, we are very encouraged by recent developments with Prime Minister Abiy in Ethiopia, extending a hand of friendship towards Eritrea, which is washing over the entire region. I think it is also impacting Somalia. Hopefully it will also impact South Sudan, and hopefully soon the relationship also will be normalized between Djibouti and Eritrea. As the Ethiopian foreign minister says himself, “We should now call it not the Horn of Africa but the Hope of Africa.” Thank you.


Fast forward to 20 minutes into the audio below for the Eritrea questions:



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