President Joe Biden signed a new executive order Friday authorizing broad sanctions against those involved in perpetrating the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia as reports of atrocities continue to emerge from the Tigray region.
The administration did not immediately impose sanctions under the new order, but “is prepared to take aggressive action” unless the parties – including the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and the Amhara Regional Government – “take meaningful steps to enter into talks for a negotiated ceasefire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access,” a senior administration official told reporters.
This official said the administration is looking to see action within “weeks, not months.” Biden approved the executive order after the administration has “telegraphed for months that the parties need to change course,” a second senior administration official said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that “absent clear and concrete progress toward a negotiated ceasefire and an end to abuses – as well as unhindered humanitarian access to those Ethiopians who are suffering – the United States will designate imminently specific leaders, organizations, and entities under this new sanctions regime.”
‘A different path is possible’
In a statement Friday, Biden said that “the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia is a tragedy causing immense human suffering and threatens the unity of the Ethiopian state.”
“The United States is determined to push for a peaceful resolution of this conflict, and we will provide full support to those leading mediation efforts,” he said.
“I join leaders from across Africa and around the world in urging the parties to the conflict to halt their military campaigns respect human rights, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and come to the negotiating table without preconditions. Eritrean forces must withdraw from Ethiopia,” Biden said.
Blinken noted that “if the parties take immediate steps” towards those ends, “the United States is prepared to delay imposition of sanctions and focus on supporting a negotiated process.”
Although an administration official voiced optimism “about the growing moves” by regional leaders and the African Union to support a mediated solution, the administration is “not optimistic about the situation on the ground and that’s why the President authorized this executive order in order to ramp up the pressure.”
A Senate aide told CNN the US Embassies in Ethiopia and Eritrea have already identified names of some potential sanctions targets. Officials stressed that any sanctions would have exemptions for humanitarian and development assistance.
“A different path is possible but leaders must make the choice to pursue it,” the US President said.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday vowed that the country “will not succumb to consequences of pressure engineered by disgruntled individuals for whom consolidating power is more important than the well-be