‘We need to see action on the ground and a permanent ceasefire in Tigray’, U.S. Ambassador to UN says ahead of briefing on Ethiopia’s crisis

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Friday that the U.S. expects to see “action on the ground” and a “permanent ceasefire” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

She made the comments in New York at a UN Security Council stakeout prior to a briefing on Ethiopia and the precarious situation in Tigray. 

Asked whether the United States would act if the Security Council doesn’t, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. has already acted, listing some of the steps that have already been taken by the Biden administration.

“We called for this meeting. This – we’ve had six closed-door meetings, and the situation in Tigray has not significantly improved. And so, we think it’s time to have an open meeting and give the Security Council the opportunity to address this issue in a public way, so that the people of Tigray know that this is an issue that we’re concerned about. But even more importantly, the parties to the conflict know that we are watching them, and we’re watching them closely,” she said.

She added that the briefing is also the first opportunity “for us to show that African lives matter as much as other lives around the world.”

“But an open meeting is not enough. What we need to see is action on the ground. We need to see a ceasefire that is permanent; that all of the parties agree to. We need to see the Eritrean troops return to their own border. We need to see unfettered access for humanitarian workers. We need to see accountability for the atrocities that have been committed. And at this moment I just want to express, again, our sympathy for the many loss of lives, including for MSF staff who were killed recently,” she said.

Below is the full interaction she had with reporters as released by her office.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good to see you, as well.  

QUESTION: How was your meeting downtown? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: [Laughs.] You knew I was in downtown? It was fantastic. I actually had the opportunity to go and see one of the COVID vans providing COVID shots in a community in Brooklyn. And it was just fantastic. I wanted to have the opportunity to highlight how important it was for people to take the vaccine and how easily available taking the vaccine is. And New York City is doing a great job of taking it to the community, and I wanted to support that. 

QUESTION: And on Tigray – 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes. 

QUESTION: What do you hope to get out of it, and would the U.S. act if the Security Council doesn’t? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the U.S. has already acted. We called for this meeting. This – we’ve had six closed-door meetings, and the situation in Tigray has not significantly improved. And so, we think it’s time to have an open meeting and give the Security Council the opportunity to address this issue in a public way, so that the people of Tigray know that this is an issue that we’re concerned about. But even more importantly, the parties to the conflict know that we are watching them, and we’re watching them closely. 

QUESTION: Ambassador, do you hope that – if needed – this will create momentum for the Council to actually take action, finally? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think it is action that we’re taking – finally – that we’re able to have this open meeting. And hopefully, it will lead to further action by the Council if the situation there does not improve. 

QUESTION: Ambassador, just a follow up to that. Is an open meeting enough to show that, as you’ve said, African lives matter? 

AMBASSDOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s the first opportunity for us to show that African lives matter as much as other lives around the world. But an open meeting is not enough. What we need to see is action on the ground. We need to see a ceasefire that is permanent; that all of the parties agree to. We need to see the Eritrean troops return to their own border. We need to see unfettered access for humanitarian workers. We need to see accountability for the atrocities that have been committed. And at this moment I just want to express, again, our sympathy for the many loss of lives, including for MSF staff who were killed recently.  

QUESTION: Are you going to propose a product? A statement from the Security Council? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not going to preview what we will do in the Security Council, but I certainly think where we are now is a huge, huge – it represents progress.  

QUESTION: Ambassador just a quick question on Syria. After the first round of negotiations on cross-border, how are you feeling about the prospects of –  

AMBASSDOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The negotiations are continuing. We have worked closely with the penholders and with all of our colleagues to share our strong views of the importance of keeping this border open, and opening one or two of the borders previously closed, and we’re going to continue to negotiate until we come to a conclusion that is acceptable. 

Thank you. 

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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