In Washington DC, Saudi deputy defense minister meets with U.S. special envoy for Horn of Africa to discuss Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, Khalid bin Salman, has met with U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, in Washington D.C., to discuss Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis, an official said.

Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui 
Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui

“Special Envoy Feltman and KBS (Khalid bin Salman) discussed the situation in Ethiopia, in areas where the United States and Saudi Arabia could potentially cooperate to address the crisis and to mitigate instability in the broader region,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

Price added that they also agreed to continue a dialogue “on mechanisms to promote peace, security, and prosperity in the Red Sea.”

“As you know, Ambassador Feltman was recently in the Gulf discussing the situation in the Horn of Africa, and this was a continuation of that,” he said.

Khalid bin Salman also met with U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking

“With Special Envoy Lenderking, he took part in a meeting yesterday to discuss steps to mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen and steps necessary to end the conflict there, including steps that would ease restrictions at Hudaydah port and Sana’a Airport,” Price said.

He added that Special Envoy Lenderking stressed “the need for continued Saudi engagement on Yemen, allowing space for nationwide comprehensive ceasefire followed by a transition to a Yemeni political process that would lead to a permanent solution to this conflict.”

“Additionally, Special Envoy Lenderking recognized Saudi Arabia for its efforts to improve implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, and he agreed that both the Republic of Yemen Government and the Southern Transition Council must continue to negotiate so that the Yemeni Government can return to Aden to provide the essential services the Yemeni people need and deserve,” Price said.

The meeting between the Saudi minister and the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa followed a telephone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

During that phone conversation, Blinken called for an “immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire” in the Tigray region .

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President Kamala D. Harris, National Security Advisor to the President Jake Sullivan, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Nancy McEldowney at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha 
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President Kamala D. Harris, National Security Advisor to the President Jake Sullivan, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Nancy McEldowney at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

He also condemned the destruction of a major bridge into Tigray that will make it difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people in the region, the U.S. government said.

Abiy Ahmed 
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali

“The Secretary stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Price added that Secretary Blinken condemned the destruction of bridges into Tigray and other impediments to access and urged Prime Minister Abiy to commit to the steps outlined in the United Nations Security Council on July 2.

According to the United States government, those steps include “the complete withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray; full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need; the establishment of a transparent process to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities; and an affirmation that neither the internal nor external borders of Ethiopia will be changed by force or in contravention of the constitution.”

In addition, the Secretary emphasized the urgency of holding an inclusive political dialogue to begin the difficult work of forging a lasting resolution to the country’s ethnic and political divisions.

It was the first phone call between Abiy and Blinken since a ceasefire was declared in Tigray and a major bridge was destroyed threatening humanitarian efforts into the region.

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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