Biden calls on UN Security Council to address famine in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as anger grows over destruction of key bridge

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is concerned about the humanitarian tragedy in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and is calling on the United Nations Security Council to address the ongoing famine there, his National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, said on Thursday.

President Joe Biden walks with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan along the Colonnade of the White House Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, to the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden walks with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan along the Colonnade of the White House Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, to the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement that Mr. Sullivan made the comment during a telephone conversation with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh.

“Mr. Sullivan conveyed President Biden’s concern over the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the urgent need for the UN Security Council to marshal support to address ongoing famine conditions,” Horne said.

The phone call with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh also served as a platform for Mr. Sullivan to emphasize the United States’ commitment to a comprehensive partnership with Vietnam, and discussed ways to deepen cooperation between the two countries in areas such as maritime security, the Mekong region, combatting climate change, and ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mr. Sullivan underscored the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN’s essential role in the Indo-Pacific architecture and pledged that the administration would continue to engage at a high-level with Vietnam and partners throughout the region,” Horne said, adding that both leaders also discussed the South China Sea, including the United States’ support for the 2016 arbitral tribunal award.

But the mention of Ethiopia and the humanitarian tragedy in Tigray was a reminder that the Biden administration remains committed to resolving an Ethiopian crisis that started last November.

President Biden’s concern and call for the United Nations to act came on the same day reports emerged that the Tekeze Bridge, one of the main supply routes into Ethiopia’s Tigray region had been destroyed, constraining humanitarian assistance into the region.

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“We are devastated to hear the Tekeze Bridge—one of the main supply routes into Tigray, Ethiopia—has been destroyed,” the International Rescue Committee said in a Tweet. “This means aid efforts will be even more severely hampered amid the ongoing conflict. The IRC continues to call for unfettered humanitarian access to the region.”

Revelations that the key bridge had been destroyed after Ethiopian and Eritrean troops left the region and a ceasefire was declared triggered outrage throughout the region and beyond.

“A cease fire doesn’t mean cutting a region off power or destroying critical infrastructure. A credible cease fire means doing everything possible so that aid reaches the millions of children, women and men who urgently need it. Saving lives should be a priority for all,” tweeted Josep Borrell Fontelles, a High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Some reports claimed that the Amhara militia and the Ethiopian Defense Force soldiers placed dynamite and then walked away and a few moments later the bridge exploded.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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