December 1, 2022

U.S. denies “disrespecting” Ethiopia’s sovereignty or “interfering” in its internal affairs over Tigray: ‘We have same interest as the Ethiopian people’

Department Spokesperson Ned Price holds the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett
Department Spokesperson Ned Price holds the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett
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The United States on Monday denied interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs or disrespecting the country’s sovereignty during the crisis in Tigray, describing the claims as “wholly inaccurate.”

“Those claims are wholly inaccurate, they are wholly wrong,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing when asked by an Ethiopian journalist to react to claims that the United States was “disrespecting Ethiopia’s sovereignty” or meddling in the East African country’s internal affairs over the raging war in Tigray.

Price asserted that “the interest of the United States is the interest of the Ethiopian people: to see the restoration of peace, to see an end to the violence, to see a sovereign, whole Ethiopia. And that’s why we’ve supported the African Union-led talks.”

The journalist, Mesfin from TG Ethiopia, has repeatedly challenged the Biden administration in Washington over the perception in Ethiopia that it was siding with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) over the Ethiopian federal government and the majority of Ethiopian people. But on countless occasions, several American officials have denied siding with any one, asserting that all they want is for peace to return to Africa’s second most populous nation.

Price noted that the African Union-led peace talks ongoing in South Africa are meant “to address the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia that has cost so many lives, has led to atrocities, has led to bloodshed, has led to starvation, has aggravated so many underlying factors.”

“We commend South Africa for hosting the talks. We stand ready to support the African Union High Representative Obasanjo and the AU panel members, former South African Deputy Prime Minister[1] Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Kenyatta in facilitating an agreement,” he said.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Ned, for giving me the chance. My name is Mesfin from TG Ethiopia, and my question is about Ethiopia. Here’s my first question, then. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians gathered Saturday in Addis Ababa and other cities in Ethiopia to demand that the United States and other European countries stop their interference and pressure in Ethiopia’s internal affairs. Some demonstrators even displayed banners accusing the United States of disrespecting Ethiopia’s sovereignty. What is the State Department’s response to the demonstrators’ demands?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry, I missed the first part of your question in terms of the demonstrators’ demands.

QUESTION: Yes, they are accusing the United States disrespecting Ethiopia’s sovereignty. They are saying that the United States is interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs. So what is your response to that?

MR PRICE: Our response, of course, is that those claims are wholly inaccurate, they are wholly wrong. The interest of the United States is the interest of the Ethiopian people: to see the restoration of peace, to see an end to the violence, to see a sovereign, whole Ethiopia. And that’s why we’ve supported the African Union-led talks.

And tomorrow in fact, these African Union-led talks will kick off in South Africa to address the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia that has cost so many lives, has led to atrocities, has led to bloodshed, has led to starvation, has aggravated so many underlying factors. We commend South Africa for hosting the talks. We stand ready to support the African Union High Representative Obasanjo and the AU panel members, former South African Deputy Prime Minister[1] Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Kenyatta in facilitating an agreement.

And to that end, our Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer is in South Africa to observe and to participate in the AU-led talks along with United Nations and IGAD, and to support efforts to have an immediate cessation of hostilities, to deliver humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need, to prevent further human rights abuses and atrocity – atrocities, and to secure Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia. Those are our interests, but importantly, those are also the interests of the Ethiopian people.

QUESTION: Ned, yesterday also Ethiopians and Eritreans demonstrated in front of the White House asking the same question. Did you get their messages?

MR PRICE: We have heard loud and clear messages from Ethiopians around the world, first – in the first instance, in Ethiopia. Our special envoy has spent significant time in Addis in recent weeks meeting with a range of stakeholders. Of course there are vibrant Ethiopian diaspora communities around the world, including here in the United States. We’re engaging with appropriate stakeholders to determine how best we can help the people of Ethiopia achieve their aspirations to end the violence, to provide humanitarian assistance, to restore Ethiopia’s sovereignty, and to put an end to the atrocities and human rights abuses.

….

QUESTION: The Ethiopian military is advancing in Tigray regions and today also announced that the Ethiopian military occupied some of the Tigrayans’ capital. What is your thought on this?

MR PRICE: Well, we’ve been clear since the resumption of fighting: the fighting must stop. Peace must be given a chance through these talks, these talks that are set to begin tomorrow in South Africa. We call on the Government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities to engage seriously in these talks to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need, to prevent further human rights abuses and atrocities, and to effect Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia.

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