Norway said Friday that it will cut development aid to Ethiopia by an estimated five million dollars. The move comes after Ethiopian officials said six Norwegian diplomats had to leave the country. As Arjun Kohli reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, Ethiopia had accused Norway of trying to spread instability across the Horn of Africa and undermining its national security.
Following an announcement by the Ethiopian government that only the Norwegian ambassador and two diplomatic staff would be allowed to stay in country, Norway announced that it will reduce its annual budget of $17 million of aid to Ethiopia.
A spokeswoman for Norway's aid ministry told the media that the decision was a practical one, not political and the ministry planned to look into other ways to help projects in Ethiopia.
The six Norwegian diplomats were asked to leave the country by Sept. 15, leaving three staffers in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia did not give a specific reason for the ouster, but said Norway's government has been "pampering" anti-Ethiopia groups in the Horn of Africa.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry says that Ethiopia, one of Africa's poorest countries, needs support from donor countries and aid organizations, but in the case of Norway, aid efforts were in conflict with the governments own policies to create political stability and economic development in the region.
The spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wahide Belay, claims that Norway was directing support to rogue forces in Eritrea.
"As you know the Eritrean government has been proven from time to time that it is not only destabilizing Ethiopia, it is also destabilizing the region," he said. "It has been involved in helping terrorist groups in Somalia, who are day to day destabilizing Somalia."
Ethiopia, which supports the transitional federal government in Somalia, has accused Eritrea of supporting Islamists in Somalia.
Norwegian media has said Oslo's efforts to help cool tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70,000 people, appeared to be the cause of Ethiopia's expulsion of the diplomats.
Nevertheless, Belay tells VOA Ethiopia wants to enter into a dialogue with Norway.
"The government of Ethiopia is not interested in escalating this issue," he added. "That is why it has not publicized the action of reducing the diplomatic staff in Addis Ababa. The interest has been and remains to engage the government of Norway in a serious and transparent dialogue over issues of donor concern including the consequences of its actions in the sub region. Our government expects an equally responsible response from the government of Norway."
Belay did not confirm if talks with Norway are scheduled.