U.S. sanctions Eritrean military over role in Tigray conflict

Published : November 13, 2021 17:28 IST

War erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Photo: Loredana Sangiuliano/SOPA Images/ alliance

Washington has blacklisted the Eritrean military as it ups pressure on parties fighting in northern Ethiopia.

The United States on November 12 imposed sanctions on the Eritrean military and other Eritrea-based individuals and entities over their "continued role" in the yearlong conflict in neighboring Ethiopia that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

A U.S. Treasury Department statement cited "numerous reports of looting, sexual assault, killing civilians, and blocking humanitarian aid" by Eritrean forces. The soldiers "have been seen disguised in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, and threatening medical staff in one of northern Ethiopia's few operating hospitals,'' the statement said. Ethiopia's government allowed Eritrean soldiers to enter Ethiopia's northern Tigray region but then denied the soldiers were there for months.

Who else has been affected by the U.S. sanctions?

The U.S. sanctions also targeted Abraha Kassa Nemariam, the chief of the Eritrean National Security Office; Hidri Trust, the holding company of the Eritrean ruling party's business enterprises; the Red Sea Trading Corporation, which managed the ruling party's financial interests; and the corporation's chief executive, Hagos Ghebrehiwet W. Kidan.

The Treasury Department noted that Eritrean military leader President Isaias Afwerki was not sanctioned. Washington also warned it would sanction Ethiopia's government and rival Tigray forces if there is no "meaningful progress" toward a ceasefire and mediation.

Blinken calls for peace talks

Ahead of a three-nation trip to Africa next week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged for the start of talks between the Ethiopian government and rebels to end fighting in Tigray. A failure to reach a settlement "would lead to the implosion of Ethiopia and spill over into other countries in the region, and that would be disastrous for the Ethiopian people and also for countries in the region," Blinken told reporters in a separate statement.

"The other path is to halt all of the military actions that are currently underway, sit down to negotiate a real ceasefire to make sure that humanitarian assistance can get in to all of the regions where people are in need," he said. "I believe that that is still not only possible, but necessary."

War erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of Tigray. The conflict has left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions. The United States has denounced both Tigrayan fighters and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, over the war, which has since spread into two neighboring regions in northern Ethiopia.

Tigray blockade 'systemic'

The United Nations has called Tigray a "de facto humanitarian blockade." "People are dying because of lack of supplies,'' World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus told reporters on November 12, calling the blockade "systemic." Tedros, a former Ethiopian foreign minister under the previous government, said Tigrayans across the country were "being profiled and arrested en masse, by the thousands." "This is blatant and open," he added.

mvb/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)