Blinken calls on Ethiopian and Eritrean forces to withdraw from Tigray

US will dispatch its new envoy for the Horn of Africa to Ethiopia in 'the coming days'

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 19, 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about climate change, at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 26, 2021 pressed Ethiopia to address what he called an impending "disaster" in Tigray, including rising fears of famine. / AFP / POOL / Jacquelyn Martin

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called for Ethiopian and Eritrean forces to withdraw from the Tigray region and pointed to a growing "humanitarian disaster" in the country.

In a phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Mr Blinken "pressed for Ethiopia's and Eritrea’s commitments to withdraw Eritrean troops from Tigray to be implemented immediately, in full, and in a verifiable manner,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“In addition, the secretary noted that Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces in Tigray are contributing to the growing humanitarian disaster and committing human rights abuses. The secretary also stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to end hostilities immediately.”

Mr Price noted that Mr Blinken reiterated Washington’s “grave concern about the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crisis in the country".

The State Department also announced that seasoned diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, the Biden administration's new envoy for the Horn of Africa, will "travel to Ethiopia in the coming days".

Mr Blinken, who has said that “ethnic cleansing” is taking place in Tigray, highlighted the conflict when he appointed Mr Feltman to the position last week.

Still, Mr Blinken did welcome “the joint Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN Office of the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights investigation in Tigray to document human rights abuses and stressed the need for justice and accountability measures to hold those responsible to account".

The Tigray conflict erupted last November when Amhara militias joined Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in an offensive against the Tigray People's Liberation Front. The conflict has displaced approximately one million civilians to date and has left another 4.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced an additional $152 million in humanitarian aid for Tigray earlier this month, bringing the total amount of US aid to the region to $305m.

Further complicating matters, Sudanese soldiers swept in to retake much of the disputed Al Fashaga border with Ethiopia after Amhara fighters left the region to fight in Tigray.

Sudan has also echoed Egypt's accusations that Ethiopia is holding up negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Cairo says will inhibit its fair share of Nile River water.

In addition to Tigray, Mr Blinken singled out the mounting Ethiopian-Sudanese tension and the Nile dam dispute when he appointed Mr Feltman as the Horn of Africa envoy last week.

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