The United States has begun restricting visas for people undermining efforts to resolve the deadly fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, saying it is time for the international community to take action in a conflict that has sparked allegations of ethnic cleansing and fears of famine.
Thousands of people are estimated to have died in the six months the conflict between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front has raged in the northern regional state. Atrocities including rape, extrajudicial killings and forced evictions have been part of the violence, local authorities and aid groups have alleged.
“Despite significant diplomatic engagement, the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Sunday night.
“Without an immediate cessation of hostilities and a rapid expansion of humanitarian access, current and significant food insecurity could lead to famine,” Blinken said.
The crisis began in November after Ethiopia accused former leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, or TPLF, of ordering an attack on an Ethiopian army base in the region. Troops sent by Ethiopia’s leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, quickly ousted the TPLF from major cities and towns, but guerrilla fighting was still reported across the Tigray region. Troops from neighboring Eritrea joined in support of Ethiopian forces.