The US on Friday condemned reports of a recent series of mass killings, detentions and expulsions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a statement noting that the US is “gravely concerned by unconfirmed news reports alleging mass detentions, killings and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in western Tigray by Amhara security forces".
“We call on Amhara leaders to renounce violence against civilians,” said Mr Price.
“We also reiterate our call on Eritrea to remove its forces from Ethiopia.”
Independent watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said on Thursday that Amhara militias backed by Eritrean forces — who are allied to Ethiopia’s central government — have stepped up the killing of civilians and other abuses in western Tigray.
The UN reported that the conflict has displaced about 1.2 million people from western Tigray since the conflict began last year and has spilt over into the rest of the country.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Winner — recently returned to Addis Ababa from the battlefront.
His return came after Ethiopian forces made progress in pushing back an advance on the capital from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and other allied rebel groups.
“We call on all armed actors in Ethiopia to renounce and end violence against civilians,” said Mr Price.
“We also reiterate our call for a cessation of hostilities, an immediate end to human rights abuses and violations, negotiations without preconditions, unhindered humanitarian access and the start of an inclusive national dialogue.”
The US and five of its allies have also called on Addis Ababa to release scores of ethnic Tigrayans that Mr Abiy’s government has rounded up and detained throughout the country, including dual US-Ethiopian citizens.
At the same time, the State Department has paused a legal review into whether human rights abuses in Tigray amount to genocide in the hopes of cajoling Addis Ababa to come to the negotiating table.
The US has also expelled Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides eligible countries with duty-free access to the US market, and is pushing for a potential arms embargo on Addis Ababa at the UN.
Ethiopia has cut internet, phone and media access in Tigray since the conflict erupted last year while reportedly complicating or halting the delivery of humanitarian aid to the war-torn region.