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Addis pushes back against international pressure over Tigray

The diplomatic rifts caused by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government over the Tigray conflict are getting deeper

After toughening its language in recent weeks, the United States government is despatching Senator Chris Coons to meet Abiy Ahmed and African Union officials in Addis Ababa to discuss what Washington sees as worsening regional security crisis.

With the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) regrouping and organising a guerrilla fightback against the federal forces, there are signs that the conflict could drag on for many more months. Senator Coons, who represents Delaware, is a close ally of President Joe Biden.

Washington is frustrated by the Ethiopian government's intransigence on Tigray and refusal to address the humanitarian crisis and allegations of war crimes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that 'acts of ethnic cleansing' have taken place, though he has steered clear of attributing them directly to Abiy's government or Eritrea.

Last month, a report by Amnesty International said that Eritrean troops had massacred hundreds of civilians in the town of Axum. And the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is running Africa policy in Washington at the moment, has pinned responsibility for ending the five-month conflict on Abiy. She added that the conflict is destabilising the wider Horn of Africa region (AC Vol 61 No 24, Citadel falls but the war goes on).

The portents for Senator Coons' mission are not good. Addis dismissed Blinken's remarks as 'completely unfounded and spurious', and have dismissed criticism from international organisations and civil society groups as foreign interference. A mission by Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto to Ethiopia as an EU envoy in February prompted an angry reaction from Addis, who accused Haavisto of refusing to meet with Ethiopian ministers. That was followed by new threats from Brussels to suspend financial support to the country (AC Vol 62 No 5, Stirring the regional pot).

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