President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone with Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali for 17 minutes from 5:00 p.m. today. During their telephone conversation, arranged at the request of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, the two leaders exchanged views on how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak that has recently been spreading throughout the world. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
President Moon expressed concern about the spread of COVID-19 across the entire African continent. He noted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leadership in the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, including his recent work to secure cooperation from Alibaba Group to provide quarantine supplies not only to Ethiopia but also to other African countries.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replied by saying that President Moon’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak had filled him with pride as the President is like his brother. He went on to say that he was particularly impressed by the exemplary response of thoroughly tracing contacts and bringing them to treatment.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed continued by saying that a COVID-19 response has now emerged as Africa’s biggest agenda item as well and that his country is also suffering huge economic damage due to the novel coronavirus. The Prime Minister added that President Moon’s experience and global leadership are also needed in Africa.
In reply, President Moon said, “The G20 Leaders’ Statement adopted at the extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit specified the need for safeguarding the global economy and the significance of African healthcare issues. At the Summit, I also expressed the need for cooperation to assist vulnerable countries and the willingness to actively participate in developing countries’ efforts to enhance their capabilities to respond to infectious diseases.”
President Moon also said, “I hope that the issue of aid to Africa will be dealt with in depth in the course of follow-up measures to the G20 Leaders’ Statement going forward. The Republic of Korea will also actively participate and cooperate.”
President Moon expressed special gratitude to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed by saying, “After finishing their U.N. mission in South Sudan, our soldiers from the Hanbit Unit were able to return home safely on a chartered flight offered by Ethiopian Airlines on March 28 thanks to active cooperation from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the relevant Ethiopian authorities.”
Afterward, President Moon asked the Prime Minister to show special consideration to ensure that Korean nationals residing in Africa do not face difficulties while returning home via Ethiopia going forward since the country is playing an important role as an aviation hub on the continent.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replied that Ethiopian Airlines has always struggled for freedom and that he would assist a withdrawal at any time not only from South Sudan but also from other countries should Korea make a request.
The two leaders shared the common understanding that they should jointly respond to the COVID-19 crisis in a way that minimizes restrictions on trade and international travel. They agreed to continue to make concerted efforts with the international community in that regard.