At another extreme there have been claims suggesting there are continuous and serious problems between the two countries. This too is an exaggeration. The truth, as might be expected, lies somewhere between. Equally, there should be no complacency over the amount of activity that needs to be carried out to keep the relationship on an even keel. In other words, as with any mutually beneficial relationship, both parties will always need to work at the relationship. This is normal. There have been irritants on both sides and some will no doubt continue. One is the reporting of the Amharic Service of the Voice of America which has caused real concern to Ethiopia over several years. A number of detailed complaints have had little apparent effect. Similarly, ill-founded comments from legislators, sometimes linked to opposition groups, can cause concern. There have been times when some Congressmen have been outspoken critics of politics in Ethiopia despite displaying a significant lack of knowledge of events. As we mentioned above, the latest draft bill from Senators Feingold and Leahy is a surprising example of slapdash work, failing to note a number of recent developments, and we would suggest ignoring far more serious actual and potential dangers to international peace and security in the Horn of Africa. This is hardly something that assists the building of mutual confidence in a successful US-Ethiopia relationship. It is disappointing to find two such experienced and capable Senators responsible for such a performance.
Of course loose language, on either side, always poses the danger that it might undermine confidence or weaken the trust of both parties in sustainable links. There have been statements by US authorities which might, or indeed have, created misunderstandings. As Prime Minister Meles said "There are issues on which officials in the US feel strongly and differently and there are issues on which we feel strongly and differently from those of the United States". Referring to what he called "the rather difficult stretch we have had in the past six or seven months [being] by and large behind us", he added "We will agree to disagree on those issues we do not agree on, and we agree to work together on issues of common interest." There is, in fact, always a need for both sides to treat their relationship with care. Certainly, it is something to which Ethiopia is unfailingly committed because it significantly values the association.
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