US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed hope that diplomatic efforts by the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, would lead to an end to the war in Ethiopia, while international human rights organizations accused the warring parties of committing rape.
“I think all sides see the risks of continuing the conflict,” Blinken said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“In light of the important work Obasanjo is involved in – efforts that we and others are engaged in – we hope that there is still a chance to step back and move on to a better situation,” he added.
He hoped for negotiations to end the violence and “finally using the ceasefire to deliver humanitarian aid, and over time: negotiating a more sustainable political solution.”
“There is an opportunity that I hope everyone will seize, by sitting down and stopping what is going on on the ground, eventually reaching a ceasefire, providing humanitarian access, and over time negotiating a more sustainable political solution,” Blinken told reporters.
Blinken also expressed, during a call with his Ethiopian counterpart, his concern about the conflict in Ethiopia, and renewed his call to all parties in Ethiopia to enter into negotiations to stop hostilities, and during the call, he stressed the need to take concrete steps to achieve peace in Ethiopia.
This comes as foreign envoys step up efforts to resolve the conflict in Ethiopia, where the United States confirmed the existence of a “small window” to reach an agreement.
While the spokesman of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Getachew Reda, confirmed – in a tweet on Twitter Wednesday – that all these initiatives appear to be “primarily dedicated to saving Abi Ahmed.”
The United Nations said Wednesday that Ethiopia is holding 72 drivers working for the World Food Program in a northern city on the only road to the famine-threatened Tigray region.
A UN spokesperson confirmed, “72 drivers contracted by the World Food Program are being held in Simera. We are in contact with the Ethiopian government to understand the reasons for their detention.”
“We call on the government to ensure their safety and the full protection of their legal and human rights,” he added.
The announcement of the drivers’ detention came a day after the United Nations announced that the Ethiopian authorities had arrested 22 UN staff in the capital, Addis Ababa, during raids targeting people from Tigray region under a state of emergency.
Six of the employees were released, while 16 of them remained in detention after the authorities arrested them, according to what United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced in New York.
According to United Nations estimates, only 15% of the necessary aid has entered from Simera to Tigray since mid-July, while hundreds of thousands of people are living in famine-like conditions there.
And the United Nations announced last week that no truck carrying aid had entered northern Ethiopia since October 18, while the movement of aid workers inside and outside the region by land had been prevented since 28 of last month.
Human Rights Watch reported last week that the state of emergency measures pose a danger not only to Tigrayans but also to the media, aid organizations and others.
On Wednesday, it considered that the “effective blockade” imposed by the Ethiopian government on the Tigray region prevents rape victims from obtaining adequate health care.
Human Rights Watch has accused the warring parties of committing acts of sexual violence and deliberately targeting health care facilities, and has documented psychological and physical trauma suffered by rape victims between the ages of 6 and 80.
Amnesty International also confirmed on Wednesday that fighters from the Ethiopian province of Tigray had committed mass rape and harassed women in the neighboring province of Amhara.
The report emphasized that the year-long conflict between the central government and Tigray forces was marred by allegations of abuses by all sides.
Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, confirmed that he had not yet seen the Amnesty report, but told Reuters: “We take these allegations very seriously and are ready to conduct an independent investigation.”
These statements come at a time when the fighting is escalating in the north, as the Ethiopian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Radwan Hussein said that the decision not to negotiate with groups that were classified as terrorist is still in place.
The minister added that Addis Ababa will not succumb to the pressures being exerted on it, and that it adheres to the independence of its decision.
Twelve political parties in the Oromia region (Ethiopia’s largest region) pledged to fully support the government’s efforts to eliminate what they described as terrorist groups.
On the other hand, the French news agency quoted the commander of the Oromo Liberation Army in Ethiopia, Gal Moro, as saying that his forces approached the capital, Addis Ababa, and were preparing to launch another attack, and he expected the war to end very soon.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, the President of the Executive Council of the Oromo World Conference called for an independent investigation into the Tigray region.
The German government demanded – on Wednesday – its nationals to leave Ethiopia, and the German Foreign Ministry said – in a statement on its website – that Germans should use existing commercial flights to leave the country.
The Foreign Ministry also warned its citizens against traveling to all parts of Ethiopia, after it had warned them against traveling to areas where violence is spreading.
Meanwhile, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssef announced – on Wednesday – that his country’s government is committed to good-neighborly relations with Ethiopia, and is following up on the situation there.
Youssef said on Twitter that it is up to the Ethiopian government and its people to resolve their internal affairs, adding, “The government of Djibouti has always avoided interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, especially neighboring countries and brotherly countries.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to Tigray in November 2020 to expel the regional authorities of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which he accused of attacking military bases.
He declared victory on February 28, but in June the LTTE fighters recaptured most of Tigray, and continued their offensive in the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.