U.S. government addresses burning issues on Ethiopia and Sudan, explains why special envoy Jeffrey Feltman is making the trip

The United States government on Wednesday addressed burning issues on the crises in Ethiopia and Sudan.

The United States government on Wednesday addressed burning issues on the crises in Ethiopia and Sudan.

Speaking with reporters in Washington D.C., State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated the United States’ position that it remains “gravely concerned by the escalating violence, by the expansion of the fighting that we’ve seen in northern Ethiopia and in regions throughout the country.”

“We are concerned with the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state. The safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and the security of our facility remains among our highest priorities, and we note the nationwide state of emergency declared by Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers, and we urge all parties to use restraint, end hostilities, and ensure civilians and their rights are respected,” Price told reporters when asked to comment further on a joint statement by the QUAD for Sudan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, on the developments in Sudan, as well as on reports that U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman was traveling to Ethiopia this week.

He added, “As the Secretary (Blinken) said just a couple days ago, we have been alarmed by reports of the TPLF takeover in – of Dessie and Kombolcha. Continued fighting only prolongs the humanitarian crisis that is afflicting far too many people in Ethiopia today. All parties – all parties – must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions.”

He said the United States is “not only engaged in diplomacy ourselves, but we are working with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, including through action with the UN, the African Union, other relevant partners and bodies as well.”

“You are correct that Ambassador Feltman will be traveling to Ethiopia on November 4th and November 5th. He will be traveling there because we, as I said before, are increasingly troubled by the expansion of combat operations and intercommunal violence in parts of Ethiopia, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We call on all Ethiopians to commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue. And Ambassador Feltman in his travels there will have an opportunity to continue the discussions that have been ongoing, including with the Ethiopian Government for some time now,” he said. “In terms of any follow-on travel, we have confirmed that he’s traveling to Ethiopia tomorrow, November 4th. I don’t have any additional travel to announce at this time, but, of course, we’ll keep you posted if his plans do change.”

On Sudan, Price said the United States “applaud the millions of Sudanese who came out on October 30th. They came out to defend the country’s revolution to make clear that their democratic aspirations have not been abated. They were clear that Sudan’s democratic transition must continue.”

“We join them. We call for the civilian-led transitional government established under the 2019 Constitutional Declaration to be restored. We are steadfast in standing with Sudan’s people on their path of freedom, peace, and justice. We do regret the loss of life that has occurred in recent days, and we stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those who were killed, those who have been wounded. And we join the Sudanese people in calling for justice and accountability for violations and abuses of human rights,” he added.

Below is an exchange between Ned Price and reporters at the State Department press briefing on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

[Excerpted …]

QUESTION: Let’s start with Ethiopia, because we understand that Ambassador Feltman is going to be going there, possibly other places. So if I could kind of combine this with Sudan, because they happen to be next to each other, and they’re both in his portfolio. What’s he going to be doing in Ethiopia? Is he going to Sudan? You just put out this joint statement with the Brits, with the Saudis, and the Emiratis. What do you expect out of that, if anything, from the other – mainly the Saudis and the Emiratis, from the others who are on that? And is he going anywhere else?

MR PRICE: Sure. Let me start with Ethiopia, then we’ll move to Sudan. Obviously, a lot of action and activity to speak to.

When it comes to Ethiopia, let me make the point that we are gravely concerned by the escalating violence, by the expansion of the fighting that we’ve seen in northern Ethiopia and in regions throughout the country. We are concerned with the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state. The safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and the security of our facility remains among our highest priorities, and we note the nationwide state of emergency declared by Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers, and we urge all parties to use restraint, end hostilities, and ensure civilians and their rights are respected.

As the Secretary said just a couple days ago, we have been alarmed by reports of the TPLF takeover in – of Dessie and Kombolcha. Continued fighting only prolongs the humanitarian crisis that is afflicting far too many people in Ethiopia today. All parties – all parties – must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions.

Many of you also saw that Ambassador Feltman delivered remarks at the U.S. Institute for Peace yesterday on Ethiopia, where he made some of these same points.

We are not only engaged in diplomacy ourselves, but we are working with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, including through action with the UN, the African Union, other relevant partners and bodies as well.

You are correct that Ambassador Feltman will be traveling to Ethiopia on November 4th and November 5th. He will be traveling there because we, as I said before, are increasingly troubled by the expansion of combat operations and intercommunal violence in parts of Ethiopia, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We call on all Ethiopians to commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue. And Ambassador Feltman in his travels there will have an opportunity to continue the discussions that have been ongoing, including with the Ethiopian Government for some time now.

In terms of any follow-on travel, we have confirmed that he’s traveling to Ethiopia tomorrow, November 4th. I don’t have any additional travel to announce at this time, but, of course, we’ll keep you posted if his plans do change.

Let me go on to Sudan because this is also an area that falls under Ambassador Feltman’s remit, and of course, thereto, we have been working concertedly over the past week-plus, and over the weekend we saw a remarkable demonstration of the aspirations of the Sudanese people. We applaud the millions of Sudanese who came out on October 30th. They came out to defend the country’s revolution to make clear that their democratic aspirations have not been abated. They were clear that Sudan’s democratic transition must continue.

We join them. We call for the civilian-led transitional government established under the 2019 Constitutional Declaration to be restored. We are steadfast in standing with Sudan’s people on their path of freedom, peace, and justice. We do regret the loss of life that has occurred in recent days, and we stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those who were killed, those who have been wounded. And we join the Sudanese people in calling for justice and accountability for violations and abuses of human rights.

Matt, you were referred to a joint statement that came out just a few minutes ago. This was a joint statement by the Quad for Sudan. To translate, that is a grouping of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I would like to call your attention to really the crux of the statement. These four countries, the United States included, came together to make clear that, quote, “We call for the full and immediate restoration of its” – Sudan’s – “civilian-led transitional government institutions. We call upon all parties to strive for cooperation and unity in reaching this critical objective.” It goes on to say, “In that vein we encourage the release of all those detained in connection with the recent events and the lifting of the state of emergency.”

As you know, in both Rome and Glasgow, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with a number of his counterparts. We met with foreign minister – with the Saudi foreign minister. We met with the Emirati foreign minister. We met with others who have a stake in a stable, democratic civilian-led Sudan, and this was the message we’ve heard. So it is not just the United States calling for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led government in Sudan. It is much of the international community that is coming together. In this case, that includes the United Kingdom, but it includes some of Sudan’s regional neighbors and partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

We are not alone in this. We are very much united with our allies, with our partners around the world on the imperative of a swift return to democratic governance, a swift return to the civilian-led transition in Sudan, and we will continue to work with our partners to bring that about.

We also know even as we push this forward that failure to do so, failure to restore a civilian-led government in Sudan will only further isolate Sudan from the international community. We’ve already talked about the suspension of our own emergency support funding – some $700 million that were suspended in the immediate aftermath of the military takeover last week, but beyond that more than 4 billion in international assistance from bilateral partners and international financial institutions, and at least 19 billion in international debt relief is already at risk.

We and, as I said before, the broader international community are committed to supporting the Sudanese people and their legitimate aspirations for freedom, for peace, and for justice as well.

QUESTION: But Ned, just on these two countries in – specifically, the administration – and just in terms of the administration and not the Saudis, the Emiratis, or anyone else, but just this administration, you guvs have been warning both of these countries for months now about against – leaders in these countries against taking these actions. You had a parade of officials – a mini parade of officials go through both, including Samantha Power, including Ambassador Feltman himself who was in Khartoum just hours before this coup happened. You have now suspended 700 million in assistance to Sudan. You have kicked AGOA or are about to kick Ethiopia out of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and they don’t seem to be listening. Is there any – do you have any concern that your message is not being heeded or that you’re being ignored?

MR. PRICE: Matt, obviously, I don’t want to group Sudan and Ethiopia and treat them as one and the same. These are very distinct cases.

QUESTION: I don’t want you to treat them the same, but they happen to be right next to each other and they happen to be the Horn of Africa which is the portfolio of Ambassador Feltman.

MR. PRICE: Well, and it’s precisely why Ambassador Feltman was in Sudan in the first place. He has been a frequent visitor to Sudan in recent weeks to work on a number of issues, including the GERD, but also our concern for the viability of the civilian-led, transitional government given some of the indications that the international community had seen in the weeks and the days preceding the military takeover that something was afoot there.

So again, I don’t want you to confuse – I don’t want you to think this relationship is causal. He was there because – because the world —

QUESTION: No, no, no. I am not blaming it on him. I’m wondering – no, I’m not saying it’s your fault or his fault or whoever; I’m just asking you if you are concerned that the message that you have been delivering to both – in both of these countries over the course of the last several months hasn’t been listened to.

MR. PRICE: These are difficult challenges. These are difficult challenges, again, to take each separately because these are separate challenges.

In Sudan, the pace of the democratic transition has been a source of frustration for some. The fact that Ambassador Feltman has been such regular visitor there, had been such a regular visitor, is indicative of some of the challenges that the international community recognized the civilian-led transitional government was encountering. We have been there. Ambassador Feltman has been there. We’ve spoken out. We have engaged in private diplomacy to indicate our support for the civilian-led transitional government.

Now of course, the military, as we saw the other week, had other plans in mind. But it is notable that you have seen the international community, including some of Sudan’s most important regional neighbors swiftly condemn these anti-democratic actions, call for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led transitional government, and have made clear in no uncertain terms where they stand. And they stand with the United States, they stand with the international community, in making clear that the military’s takeover must not be allowed to stand.

Now of course, Ethiopia is a separate challenge. This is something that we have been hard at work on from the earliest days of this administration. The violence, of course, predates this administration. Tomorrow I believe, November 4th, marks one year of conflict in Tigray. It’s one year of devastating implications for the people of Tigray. In recent months, in recent weeks, we’ve seen the violence escalate. We’ve seen the violence spread to other regions. But here too, we have been working very closely with our partners, including those in the African Union and UN, to make clear to all of the parties – the Ethiopian Government, the TPLF, Eritrea – that these hostilities must come to an end and the path forward lies in diplomacy, the path forward lies in negotiations that should start immediately and without preconditions to put an end to the violence, but importantly, to ensure that the people of Ethiopia, the people of Tigray, have access to the humanitarian supplies, the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need.

And when it comes to that humanitarian assistance, no country has done more than the United States to provide the people of Ethiopia with these life-saving assistance and supplies. We’ll continue to do that, but it is also why, as we made clear yesterday, that any effort to hinder humanitarian assistance, to hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid will be met with a significant response in using all appropriate tools. And yesterday, we spoke of another tool that may be called upon on January 1st if we do not see a change in conduct when it comes to human rights abuses and the provision of humanitarian aid and access.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ned, on Sudan, did you invite Egypt to sign on the statement, and what was the response? And why they are not (inaudible)?

MR. PRICE: So this was a statement that put forward by the Quad for Sudan, and the Quad for Sudan includes us, it includes our British partners, our Emirati partners, and our Saudi partners. Sudan is an issue that we have discussed with a number of countries in the region and well beyond. We have been in contact with our counterparts in Egypt as well, knowing that the more we speak and act with one voice the more our message – the clearer our message will be to those in Sudan, our affirmative message that we stand with the Sudanese people, including the millions who took to the streets over the last weekend – who took to the streets peacefully, I should emphasize – but also to General Burhan and those behind this military takeover that their actions will not be tolerated, that the international community will not stand by unless they return Sudan to civilian rule and its transitional government.

The military does not have the ability to select Sudan’s civilian leaders. That is very clear. The 2019 transitional constitution is very clear on that front, and that’s what we’ll continue to stand by.

QUESTION: But why Egypt didn’t sign on this statement?

MR PRICE: You’ll have to ask the Egyptians.

QUESTION: Did you ask them to sign?

MR PRICE: You’ll have to ask the Egyptians for a – for their position on this. What I can tell you is this was put forward by the Quad for Sudan. The Quad for Sudan includes us, it includes our British partners, our Emirati partners, and our Saudi partners. There are a number of countries who – around the world who are in complete and total agreement with the United States and with these countries, with other countries, that the military’s takeover is unacceptable and that it must be immediately reversed.

Again, this was a statement by the Quad for Sudan. You have heard other countries speak out. You have heard other countries make that message very clear, but I’m not here to speak for other countries; I’m here to speak for the United States.

Yes, Francesco.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) has there been any direct engagement from the administration – Ambassador Feltman or anyone else – with the militaries, with General Burhan, in the last days? And do you sense that there is some path, some openness to going back to the status quo and – from the military right now? Do you have some openness? Do you see some now, some openness?

MR PRICE: So I will say that there has been engagement from individuals in this building. Of course, we read out Secretary Blinken’s discussion with Prime Minister Hamdok. There has been engagement from others in this building to the Sudanese military to make very clear where the United States, where the international community stands. I wouldn’t want to characterize those discussions, but we have left no ambiguity whatsoever about what the international community is very clear that needs to happen, and that is a swift restoration of the civilian-led transitional government.

We’ve been very clear about the potential implications and costs if this military takeover is not reversed. We have already taken action to that end in terms of suspending the $700 million in bilateral assistance, and as I said before, there are billions upon billions at stake in terms of debt relief, in terms of financing from international lending institutions if the Sudanese military is unwilling to relent. But this is something that we are working at day in, day out with our – with Sudanese interlocutors but also with partners in the region and well beyond.

Said.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Francesco’s point. Could you explain to us the Israeli role with the Sudanese? Because there was a delegation that visited with Burhan, General Burhan and so on, and today – just now, as a matter of fact – an Israeli website, Walla!, claims that you guys have asked Israel to help and sort of reverse the coup – have you done that? Are you in touch with the Israelis to basically convince the Sudanese that they should back that or Burhan should backtrack?

MR PRICE: We have been in touch at very senior levels with very senior interlocutors throughout the region and beyond, and that includes with Israel.

QUESTION: Right, but – Israel – includes Israel?

MR PRICE: That includes with Israel. But again, I’m going to leave that – those diplomatic discussions in diplomatic channels. But we have discussed this with virtually everyone with a stake in a democratic, stable, peaceful Sudan, and that is just about everyone in the region and many countries well beyond the region.

Simon.

QUESTION: I wanted just to drill down specifically on – there’s talk of Prime Minister Hamdok being restored to his position. Is that sufficient for the international acceptance that you were kind of talking about?

And you mentioned the protesters in Sudan on Saturday. A lot of those people out on the streets, they’re – rather than calling for the status quo ante, they are actually saying these coup leaders have breached the trust of this transition and the military should fully withdraw from Sudanese politics. Is that a realistic aim? And would it be sufficient just to return to where things were before?

MR PRICE: What we are calling for and what you’ve seen our partners call for, including in the context of the Quad statement that came out today, is a restoration of the 2019 constitutional declaration. And what that established was a civilian-led government, a civilian-led government that worked in partnership with the Sudanese military. I’m not going to offer a roadmap from here about what that restoration might look like in practice. What we are focused on is a restoration of that underlying framework, the 2019 constitutional declaration. That in turn will dictate what is and what is not acceptable because it is a document that is Sudanese in origin and it is – has been endorsed and has been the blueprint for the past several years. That’s what we continue to stand by; that’s what the Sudanese people continue to stand by, including with the massive demonstrations – peaceful demonstrations – that we saw in Sudan over the weekend.

Anything else on Sudan? Yes, Abbie.

QUESTION: Given the escalating levels of violence in Ethiopia, is there any change to the status of the U.S. embassy or any consideration of authorized departure?

MR PRICE: So, as I’ve said, the safety, security of American citizens in Ethiopia is our – is among our highest priorities. We are always looking at the security situation to determine what is appropriate given the conditions on the ground. Our embassy in Addis remains open. It remains operational. As you may know, on November 3rd, today, we did update the travel advisory for Ethiopia to Level Four. What that means is we are advising U.S. citizens do not travel to Ethiopia. We are recommending that U.S. citizens in Ethiopia consider departing now using commercial options that remain available. We understand that commercial activity continues, commercial air traffic continues in and out of Addis. Those options remain available and we are urging American citizens to look into those options.

On November 2nd, yesterday, we released a security alert to U.S. citizens advising them that U.S. embassy personnel are currently restricted from traveling outside the city limits of Addis Ababa. The security alert also strongly suggests that U.S. citizens seriously reconsider travel to Ethiopia and those who are in Ethiopia consider making preparations to leave. So, of course, the security situation has evolved even over the past 24 hours, and today we did issue that Level Four travel advisory urging Americans to depart the country now using commercial options.

Beyond the messaging that our embassy in Addis is putting forward, we are also reaching out to the diaspora community here in the United States and around the world to ensure that – to ensure wide distribution of these messages when it comes to U.S. citizens who may be in Ethiopia. We will continue to provide the latest and the best information we have to the American citizen community in Ethiopia going forward.

QUESTION: Ned, I want to just ask: You mentioned the United Nations and African Union. What do you think they could do to help the crisis in Ethiopia? Would the U.S. support a Security Council meeting on Ethiopia or is the U.S. supporting one? And – or what can neighboring countries do? You mentioned Eritrea. Are there others? What would you have those organizations do?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to Eritrea and the role that Eritrean forces have been playing in Ethiopia, we’ve been very clear for some time about the urgent need for Eritrean forces to withdraw from Ethiopia. They have been contributing to the violence, contributing to the instability, contributing to the increasing humanitarian emergency that has afflicted far too many Ethiopians in Tigray and in regions beyond Tigray at this point.

We have – when it comes to Ethiopia more broadly, we’ve been working in lockstep with the African Union well before the recent violence escalated. The African Union has an important role to play in this; the United Nations has an important role to play in this. When we were in New York City for the UN General Assembly in September, there were a number of discussions on the increasing threats to peace and stability and security in Ethiopia. And again, we’re exploring all options that may be appropriate given the actions, given inaction of the various parties in Ethiopia.

Above all, we are calling on the Ethiopian Government, we are calling on the TPLF, we are calling on Eritrean forces to withdraw. We are calling on all parties to engage in dialogue, to use restraint, to end hostilities, and to ensure civilians and their rights are protected. We have a number of tools at our disposal, both positive and negative incentives for various parties. We’ve put some of those on the table, we’ve utilized some of those, and we will continue to calibrate our response based on what we see, based on what we don’t see in the days and the weeks going forward. 

[For full text of briefing, please follow this link]
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.

Show More
error: Alert: Share This Content !!

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker