Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday said that the United States welcomes the planned launch of African Union-led peace talks next week between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigrayan regional authorities.
The talks will take place in South Africa and will be facilitated by AU High Representative and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as AU panel members Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
“We commend South Africa for hosting the talks and stand ready to support AU High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo and AU panel members Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uhuru Kenyatta in facilitating an agreement that, as President Biden told the UN General Assembly in September, ends the fighting in Ethiopia and restores security for all its people. As a partner to the African Union, the United States is committed to continuing to actively participate in efforts to advance peace in northern Ethiopia,” Blinken said in a statement,
Blinken, however, added that the United States remains “deeply concerned by reports of significant loss of life, destruction, indiscriminate bombardment, and human rights abuses since the five-month humanitarian truce was broken on August 24.”
He said, “We are also alarmed by the risk of widespread atrocities. In advance of next week’s talks, we reiterate our call on the parties to immediately cease all hostilities and for the Ethiopian National Defense Force and Eritrean Defense Forces to immediately halt their joint military offensive and ensure civilians are protected. We also call on Eritrea to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia and for unimpeded humanitarian assistance to be resumed immediately to all those in need.”
On Thursday, Blinken spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and both leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including the devastating crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
They called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access” and for Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia where a humanitarian blockade is said to be affecting nearly six million people.
“Expressing his grave concern about the intensification of fighting in northern Ethiopia and the risk of mass atrocities, Secretary Blinken underscored the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, good faith engagement in the AU-led talks next week, and for Eritrea to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia,” the State Department said in a brief statement.
More broadly, Secretary Blinken and Secretary-General Guterres also emphasized the importance of safeguarding UN principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially in light of Russia’s illegal attempted annexation of Ukraine’s territory. They also discussed the need for continued UN action to address the urgent security and humanitarian crises in Ukraine and in Haiti.
The State Department added that Secretary Blinken reiterated the commitment of the United States to strengthening and modernizing the UN system to ensure the organization is equipped to address the world’s most pressing collective challenges, including global health, climate, and food security.
On Wednesday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that time was running out to prevent genocide in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“There is a very narrow window now to prevent genocide in Tigray,” Dr. Ghebreyesus, who is from Tigray, said at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland.