A handshake between Foreign Minister Taye Atsqeselassie and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, seems to have concluded a meeting in Riyadh last week. The backdrop to this meeting includes Ethiopia's ongoing efforts to repatriate its citizens from Saudi Arabia, a process that has been in motion since 2018. In April, Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry announced plans to repatriate around 70,000 people, continuing efforts to return "citizens who are in a difficult situation." According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), more than half of the 750,000 Ethiopians residing in Saudi Arabia entered the country unlawfully.

Saudi Arabia is known for its strict immigration rules, and the hardships Ethiopian migrants face have been severe. A report from Human Rights Watch in August 2023 disclosed that Saudi border guards killed at least hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023. Taye's visit to Saudi Arabia is seen as part of a broader strategic move to diversify Ethiopia's international alliances and fortify ties with the Gulf countries. During his trip, Taye met with Hassan Moejeb Alhwaizy, the board chairperson of the Federation of Saudi Chambers (FSC). Last week's visit followed a high-level delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Temesgen Tiruneh, who discussed bilateral cooperation with Prince Faisal about a month and a half ago.

The winds of diplomacy under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's administration appear to be shifting, forging new connections and reinforcing existing ones in the Gulf region.

PUBLISHED ON May 25,2024 [ VOL 25 , NO 1256]

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