U.S. President Joe Biden has called for a ceasefire and an end to “large-scale human rights abuses” in the war-ravaged Tigray region of Ethiopia just days after the United States imposed visa restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials accused of promoting the ongoing conflict.
In a statement on Wednesday, Biden said he was “deeply concerned” about the escalation of violence in Tigray and the “hardening of regional and ethnic divisions” in various parts of the country.
“Large-scale human rights abuses in Tigray, including widespread sexual violence, are unacceptable and have to end, ”he said.
Biden also called on Eritrean and Amhara forces to withdraw from Tigray and allow authorities to grant “immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to the region to prevent widespread hunger“.
“The belligerents of the Tigray region should declare and adhere to the ceasefire, and the Eritrean forces and Amhara should withdraw.”
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in the Tigray region since November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to arrest and disarm the leaders of the regional ruling party, the Popular Liberation Front. of Tigray (TPLF). Five million people also need help.
Biden’s comments come after the U.S. State Department announced on Monday that it was imposing economic and security brakes on Ethiopia, as well as visa restrictions on current or former government officials in Ethiopia and Eritrea and members of the security forces. of countries.
Visa restrictions also applied to other people, including Amhara regional and irregular forces and members of the TPLF, who are believed to be “responsible or complicit in undermining the resolution of the crisis in Tigray,” the department said. dit.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the measures were designed to push for conflict resolution, but the Ethiopian government accused the Biden administration of interference in its internal affairs.
On Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that if U.S. restrictions continued, Addis Ababa “will be forced to review its relations with the United States, which could have implications beyond our bilateral relationship. “.
“The US administration is trying to intervene [Ethiopia’s] internal affairs, not only is it inappropriate, but it is also totally unacceptable, “the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Ethiopian government faces growing international pressure to report alleged abuses of rights in Tigray, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, and forced displacement. Blinking dit in March, “acts of ethnic cleansing” had taken place in the region.
Ethiopia has denied widespread atrocities and dit on May 21, he had convicted four soldiers of killing or raping civilians and tried 53 more people for the same crimes, even though court records were not yet public.
Displaced people “don’t feel safe”
Earlier Wednesday, the United Nations said it was “deeply alarmed” by reports that soldiers were gathering hundreds of displaced civilians from the Tigray camps.
Soldiers detained at least 200 civilians from various informal camps in Shire, beating them and snatching their phones before forcing them into trucks, according to reports from Amnesty International and witnesses.
“We understand how traumatic and distressing the situation is, not only for the relatives of the missing youth, but for the entire (displaced) Shire community,” Elisabeth Haslund, a spokeswoman for the AFP, told AFP news agency. UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
“What we have observed is that thousands of displaced people have fled the places because they do not feel safe and believe that the spaces are no longer safe.”
A senior UN official as well warned urgent action was needed to prevent widespread famine in Tigray.
In December, the Ethiopian government had promised “free humanitarian access,” but large parts of the region, especially rural areas, are still largely cut off due to active hostilities, according to an update from the Coordination Office. ‘UN Humanitarian Affairs earlier this month. (OCHA).
Parts of central, southern and southeastern Tigray have been blocked by parties to the conflict since early March, OCHA said, warning that the scale of food insecurity in the region remained “large and terrible.”