November 26, 2022

Biden administration ramps up diplomatic efforts to help end Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis, calls on Abiy government to stop airstrikes and Eritrean troops to withdraw, wants African Union to play bigger role

President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade of the White House, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, to the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The United States government is ramping up diplomatic efforts to help end the lingering crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and is calling on the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments as well as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to work for a peaceful resolution of the almost two year old conflict that has left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced.

At a press conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, September 7, Vedant Patel, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson, said that the United States continues to be deeply concerned about renewed fighting in Ethiopia and announced that in the coming days, as part of the ongoing diplomatic efforts, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Mary Catherine Phee, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Michael Hammer, and other U.S. diplomats will be consulting with the African Union as well as key actors in the region – the UN, the EU, and UK envoys.

“Our goal is to mobilize diplomatic efforts to press the government and the TPLF to halt immediately their military offensives and for Eritrea to withdraw to its borders. There is no military solution to this conflict. The only path forward is for the parties to pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks,” he said.

Patel also provided an update on the U.S. Special Envoy Hammer’s travel to Ethiopia September 5-6, saying that Hammer met in Addis Ababa September 5th through 6th with deputy prime minister, with the foreign minister, and the national security advisor to discuss the urgency of immediate cessation of hostilities and going to peace talks under the African Union’s auspices.

He said, “Special Envoy Hammer delivered the same message to the TPLF chairman, and we have condemned the TPLF offensive outside of Tigray, the Ethiopian Government’s airstrikes and ground offensive, and Eritrea’s re-entry into the conflict.

“The Ethiopian people have suffered tremendously from this conflict. As the largest donor, the U.S. is committed to continuing to provide its life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need affected by the resumption of conflict. It is important to note that we remain concerned by the negative impact of conflict and drought in other regions of Ethiopia.

“Let me restate again that the U.S. commitment to Ethiopia’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our conviction that only through a lasting peace will the Ethiopian people have an opportunity to achieve the prosperity they desire and deserve.”

The White House announced on Friday, September 2, that President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Michael Hammer, will travel to Ethiopia starting at the weekend to engage on the crisis in northern Ethiopia. 

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Special Envoy Hammer will convey that all parties should halt military operations and engage in peace talks, White House Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news conference in Washington D.C.
 
“We condemn Eritrea’s reentry into the conflict, the continuing TPLF offensive outside of Tigray, and the Ethiopian government’s airstrikes. There is no military solution to the conflict,” she said.

Jean-Pierre added, “Prior to renewed hostilities, we were encouraged by five months of humanitarian truce, and are now deeply concerned about the seizure of humanitarian assistance of military use. All parties should exercise restraint.  And we urge de-escalation by all actors, particularly so that there can be a resumption of humanitarian relief and basic services to all parties in need.”

In a media note, the U.S. State Department said that Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa (SEHOA) Mike Hammer will travel to Ethiopia and the region September 4-15 where he will press for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the start of peace talks.

“In addition to meetings with Ethiopian government and African Union officials, Special Envoy Hammer will meet with civil society and political actors representing different regions of the country to discuss how best to promote efforts towards a lasting peace, security, and prosperity for all people in Ethiopia. The United States is committed to the unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ethiopia,” read the note.

The crisis in Tigray, which began in November 2020, after the Ethiopian government accused the TPLF of attacking a federal government military forces, has lasted for almost two years now. Thousands of people are said to have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been displaced and many more are at risk of famine due to the conflict and the devastating drought in the region.

The Ethiopian government has repeatedly indicated that the West was backing the TPLF while the TPLF has said that the West was not doing enough to call on the Ethiopian and Eritrean government to lift the blockade around Tigray.

Several ceasefires have led back to renewed conflicts and to the suffering of civilians caught in the middle.

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