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Biden sanctions Eritrean forces over Ethiopia

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The Biden administration on Friday announced sanctions targeting Eritrea’s government related to the devastating conflict in Ethiopia. 

The sanctions target the Eritrean Defense Forces and Eritrea’s political elite. Eritrea has aligned with the central Ethiopian government in their fight against rebel Tigrayan forces from the northern part of the country, and is singled out by the Treasury Department for contributing to the crisis.

“Eritrea’s destabilizing presence in Ethiopia is prolonging the conflict, posing a significant obstacle to a cessation of hostilities, and threatening the integrity of the Ethiopian state,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“Credible accounts implicate Eritrean forces in serious human rights abuses, and the United States remains gravely concerned about the conduct of all parties to the conflict. Eritrean forces should immediately withdraw from Ethiopia.”

The secretary is headed to the African continent next week, where he will raise regional security issues related to the conflict in Ethiopia, in meetings in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

The sanctions are imposed under an executive order issued by President Biden in September meant to exert pressure on the warring factions to reach a cease-fire.

The crisis in Ethiopia has intensified in recent weeks with opposition Tigrayan forces reportedly threatening an assault on the capital of Addis Ababa. The U.S. dispatched its special envoy for the Horn of Africa to mediate between African stakeholders.

Last week, the State Department authorized an “ordered departure” for nonemergency U.S. employees of its embassy in Ethiopia and their families, while encouraging American citizens to depart the country amid the worsening conflict.

The Biden administration has been critical of Eritrea’s role and has repeatedly called for its forces to withdraw. 

Human rights groups have warned of a genocide being carried out against the Tigrayan people.

Entities targeted by the sanctions include the Eritrean Defense Forces, which the Treasury Department said is operating in northern Ethiopia and has been implicated in numerous reports of looting, sexual assault, killing civilians and blocking humanitarian aid.

Other sanctions target the political party of Eritrea’s president, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), the sole political party of the country, and the holding company for the PFDJ, called Hidri Trust.

The head of the Eritrean National Security Office, Abraha Kassa Nemariam, and economic advisor to the PFDJ, Hagos Ghebrehiwet W Kidan, are also sanctioned, as is the Red Sea Trading Corporation, where Ghebrehiwet serves as CEO.

The sanctions block any property in the U.S. owned or in part held by the blacklisted individuals and entities and prohibits U.S. citizens from transacting with sanctioned people and entities.  

“We condemn the continued role played by Eritrean actors who are contributing to the violence in northern Ethiopia, which has undermined the stability and integrity of the state and resulted in a humanitarian disaster,” director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki said in a statement.

“Treasury will continue to use all our tools and authorities to target and expose those whose actions prolong the crisis in the region, where hundreds of thousands are suffering. Parties to the conflict must come to the negotiating table without preconditions. The United States stands ready to pursue additional actions, including against the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, if there is not tangible progress toward a cessation of hostilities,” she said.

Tags Antony Blinken Eritrea Ethiopia Joe Biden

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