November 30, 2023

Biden’s national security advisor discusses Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis with Turkey, as U.S. leader presses Nobel Peace Prize winning Abiy Ahmed to embrace peace not war

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke by phone on Monday with Ibrahim Kalin, Spokesperson and Chief Advisor to the President of Turkey, and both discussed a wide range of topics, including the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

During their conversation, Mr. Sullivan “noted the critical need to support efforts to end the conflict in Ethiopia,”  NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

Horne said Sullivan and Kalin also discussed the ongoing efforts in coordination with Allies and partners to avoid further Russian aggression toward Ukraine and de-escalate tensions through diplomacy.  They exchanged views on a range of regional issues, including the situation in Kazakhstan. 

“They agreed on the importance of maintaining stability and unity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and on working toward de-escalation and normalization in the Caucasus,” she said.

Horne did not provide enough details about the discussion on Ethiopia, but the engagement came on the same day President Biden spoke by phone for the first time with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia.

A senior administration official told reporters in Washington DC that President Biden told Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali during their discussion not to send his troops into the Tigray region to avoid further escalation of the lingering conflict in the Horn of Africa.

The official described the tone of the conversation between the American and Ethiopian leaders as “business-like, serious, substantive, and focused on issues.”

The official said Mr. Biden insisted that humanitarian access into Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia should be restored and that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seemed to understand that humanitarian access was a must.

The official reiterated that President Biden made clear the United States does not take any sides and only wants peace to reign.

The official did not say whether Mr. Biden made clear what his red line would be in Ethiopia, but said the president reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict.

The phone call between Biden and Abiy was meant to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and opportunities to advance peace and reconciliation.

“President Biden commended Prime Minister Abiy on the recent release of several political prisoners, and the two leaders discussed ways to accelerate dialogue toward a negotiated ceasefire, the urgency of improving humanitarian access across Ethiopia, and the need to address the human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detentions of Ethiopians under the state of emergency,” the White House said in an earlier statement.

It added that “President Biden expressed concern that the ongoing hostilities, including recent air strikes, continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering, and he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to work alongside the African Union and regional partners to help Ethiopians peacefully resolve the conflict.

“Both leaders underscored the importance of the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship, the potential to strengthen cooperation on a range of issues, and the need for concrete progress to resolve the conflict.”

It was the first phone call between both leaders since Mr. Biden came into power a year ago.

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