The administration did not immediately impose sanctions under the new order, but “is ready to take aggressive action” unless the parties – including the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray and the Amhara regional government – “are taking significant steps to begin talks for a negotiated ceasefire and allow unimpeded humanitarian access,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The official said the administration was looking to see action in “weeks, not months.” Biden approved the executive order after the administration “wired for months that the parties needed to change course,” a second senior administration official said.
“The ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia is a tragedy that causes immense human suffering and threatens the unity of the Ethiopian state,” Biden said in a statement Friday.
“The United States is committed to pushing for a peaceful resolution to this conflict, and we will give full support to those leading the mediation efforts,” Biden said in a statement.
He continued, “I join leaders across Africa and around the world in urging the parties to the conflict to end their military campaigns, respect human rights, allow unhindered humanitarian access and come to the negotiating table without preconditions. Eritrean forces must withdraw from Ethiopia. . “
“Another path is possible but the leaders must make the choice to pursue it”, declared the president.
The decree reflects a growing sense of urgency in the situation in Tigray, where humanitarian access to deliver food, fuel and essential medicines has been severely cut and hundreds of thousands of people face starvation.
CNN has uncovered evidence that mass detentions, sexual violence and killings characteristic of the genocide have taken place in Tigray. The inquiries prompted Congress to step up pressure on the administration to take action, according to a Senate adviser, who noted that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing that the administration not only name the targets of the sanctions, but also make a decision on whether the atrocities that have taken place constitute genocide.
The aide told CNN that the US embassies in Ethiopia and Eritrea had identified the names of some potential targets of the sanctions.
In Friday’s statement, Biden said he was “appalled at reports of mass killings, rapes and other sexual violence aimed at terrorizing civilians.”
Administration officials acknowledged that the situation in Tigray had deteriorated in recent months and expressed concern that violence would escalate as the rainy season draws to a close, allowing more traffic. In the region.
However, the administration’s chief official said the decision to sign the decree but not immediately impose sanctions reflected the administration’s belief that “a different path is possible.”
“This is not a decision this administration has taken lightly and our preference, quite frankly, is not to use this tool,” they said. “We would prefer that the parties to the conflict work with the international community to advance the talks towards a negotiated ceasefire.”
“We want to see a prosperous, prosperous, peaceful and united Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region, but this ongoing protracted conflict is in danger – puts all of this in danger,” they said.
“No military solution”
This official added that they were “not optimistic about the situation on the ground and that is why the president authorized this executive decree in order to step up the pressure, but we are optimistic about the increasing measures of the regional leaders. , from (African Union) Envoy (Olusegun) Obasanjo to push for a mediation solution, and we hope we can mobilize support for these efforts. ”
The situation is likely to be a “key discussion” at the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York, the second official said, “because it is currently one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the world “.
“There is a broad consensus, at least outside Ethiopia, that there is no military solution to this conflict,” they said.
Friday’s decree is broader in scope compared to previous sanctions announced in the region and will give the Treasury and state departments the authority and flexibility to identify the persons and entities responsible for the conflict if steps are taken to ‘a ceasefire is not taken.
The chief official stressed that no sanctions would target the Ethiopian people, noting that the Treasury Department will issue general licenses providing “clear exemptions for any development effort, humanitarian and otherwise, as well as for any critical business activity in Ethiopia.” and Eritrea. “
In May, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced drastic restrictions on visas for “certain persons responsible for or complicit in obstructing the resolution of the crisis in Tigray” and the United States sanctioned the head of state -Major of the Eritrean Defense Forces for its connection to “serious human rights violations committed during the ongoing conflict in Tigray. ”
The State Department also “imposed restrictions on foreign aid to Ethiopia and aligned our defense trade control policy with this action,” according to a State Department spokesperson.
“Security assistance programs have been suspended. A Millennium Challenge Corporation economic growth ‘threshold’ program also remains on hold for the time being,” they said.
In a statement released last week, State Department spokesman Ned Price called “reports of human rights abuses and atrocities” by parties to the conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia of “deeply disturbing,” saying these “growing reports of human rights abuses underscore the urgency of independent and credible international investigations.
The Biden administration is also conducting “a review based on the law and the facts” to determine whether crimes amounting to genocide have taken place in Tigray.
This review has been underway since at least the end of June. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Robert Godec told lawmakers at the time that “the administration strongly agrees that horrific atrocities have been committed in Tigray and Secretary Blinken said in previous testimony, as you said, there had been acts of ethnic cleansing. . “
“We are in the process of carrying out a review based on the facts and the law to determine whether the terms crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes can and should be used,” he said. “The final decision whether or not to use these terms rests with the Secretary of State.”