The United States government said on Tuesday that it hopes peace talks between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan authorities, which are currently taking place in South Africa, will be successful, as there is no military solution to the conflict in northern Ethiopia.
“These talks, if they are successful – and we certainly hope they will be – can serve to bring about multiple ends. One is an immediate cessation of hostilities; two is the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need; three is measures to protect civilians; and fourth, importantly, is Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at news briefing in Washington.
Asked whether the United States expects the talks to result in something lasting, Price said that the mediation effort “provides a chance, it provides an opportunity to resolve the political issues and to achieve a lasting peace for all Ethiopians.”
“We do see these talks as an opportunity for the sides to end the fighting in Ethiopia and to restore peace and security for all of the Ethiopian people,” he added.
Price said that the United States government been actively involved diplomatically in supporting the launch of the mediation effort and that the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Michael Hammer has been in South Africa, observing and participating in the talks led by the African Union.
The talks are being facilitated by former Nigerian President who acts as the African Union High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo, former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We’ve been actively involved diplomatically in supporting the launch of this mediation effort. As I’ve already said, our special envoy is present in South Africa. He will remain down there. Secretary Blinken has in recent days spoken to President Ruto. He has spoken to his South African counterpart, spoken to others as we set up and did some of the leg work to help assist these talks. But ultimately they are AU-led,” Price said.
Price noted that as the conflict drags on, the humanitarian conditions for millions in northern Ethiopia is deteriorating with about nine million people facing food insecurity, and as many as one million people are projected to be facing famine-like conditions in the region.
“Humanitarian access as a result of this conflict has been largely blocked since last August, when it began to flare up once again, and emergency nutrition and health supplies have completely run out in many areas, and severely malnourished populations, particularly children under five, will start dying at alarming rates without immediate and additional supplies. That’s why we are prioritizing our support. We believe these talks are not only an opportunity to solve the political impasse to bring a cessation to the violence, but to provide much-needed relief to so many in the region who have been suffering as a result of the conflict,” he added.
Late Tuesday, the United States government urged Ethiopian and Tigrayan negotiators who are currently meeting in South Africa to engage seriously in peace talks to reach a lasting resolution to the nearly two-year long conflict.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that “the United States welcomes the start of African Union (AU)-led peace negotiations between the government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan regional authorities in South Africa today.”
He added, “We urge the delegations to engage seriously in these talks to reach a lasting resolution to this conflict. As a first priority, it is essential to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities. We also call on the delegations to agree on unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need, measures to protect civilians, and Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia.
“We commend South Africa for hosting the talks and support AU High Representative Obasanjo, former South African Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Kenyatta as mediators. I have spoken with Kenyan President Ruto, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Pandor, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy to convey the urgency of ending this conflict now. I will continue to consult with the AU on forging a political resolution to this destabilizing conflict.
“There is no military solution to this conflict, and these talks represent the most promising way to achieve lasting peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians.”