A U.S. delegation has met with top officials in Addis Ababa to convey President Joe Biden’s “grave concerns” about the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
The delegation led by U.S. Senator Chris Coons arrived in Ethiopia Saturday to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and express the president’s “grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa,” according to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Present during the closed-door meeting were Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and the spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dina Mufti.
There was no immediate comment on the talks from Senator Coons, a Democrat from Biden’s home state of Delaware, and no word on when the delegation will meet with Prime Minister Abiy.
Since the start of the conflict between the federal government and the Tigray regional forces in November, hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Ethiopia or sought refuge in neighboring Sudan.
A recent U.S. government report concluded the Ethiopian government is conducting “a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” in Tigray. It said Ethiopian forces and allied militia fighters from the neighboring Amhara region, who participated in the Tigray conflict in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.”
The U.S has called for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes.
Ethiopian officials put a positive spin on the talks with the Coons delegation.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Dina Mufi called the discussion with Coons “constructive.”
“The Ethiopian government is in the process of explaining its position so the friendly United States government would better understand it and study the issue,” he said, speaking to reporters on Ethiopia’s state-owned media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.
Dina added, “there is willingness on Ethiopia’s side to work together and make adjustments.”
At the same time, he said, “in the process of the law enforcement operation in Tigray, it is not an appropriate direction for them [the U.S.] to take when considering a local militia [Amhara militia] as a foreign force,” Dina said. “Domestic matters are Ethiopian matters and sovereignty matters,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke briefed the delegation “to shed light on the confusions that the U.S. Government previously had about the military operation in the region,” the government media reported. The Fana Broadcasting Corporate report stopped short of explaining what the confusion is.
Ambassador Dina told local reporters that other topics were discussed beyond the conflict in the Tigray region during the meeting with the delegation.
Ethiopian authorities spoke about tensions with Sudan, which are running high due to disputes over the border and Ethiopia’s hydropower project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, he said.