WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The State Department on Friday said Washington has decided not to lift the pause in assistance to Ethiopia for most programs in the security sector, days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described acts in Tigray as ethnic cleansing.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that while the United States has decided to resume certain types of assistance, including that related to global health and food security, assistance for other programs and most programs in the security sector would remain paused.
“Given the current environment in Ethiopia, we have decided not to lift the assistance pause for other programs, including most programs in the security sector,” Price said at a news briefing.
Blinken has pressed Ethiopia to end hostilities in Tigray and on Wednesday, testifying before Congress, he said he wanted to see forces in Tigray from Eritrea and Amhara be replaced by security forces “that will not abuse the human rights of the people of Tigray or commit acts of ethnic cleansing, which we’ve seen in western Tigray.”
Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes, and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region of more than 5 million people.
Blinken, in a call with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, discussed the importance of an international investigation into reported human rights abuses in the region, the State Department said on Friday.
It said that in the call, Blinken also called for “enhanced regional and international efforts to help resolve the humanitarian crisis, end atrocities, and restore peace in Ethiopia.”
The U.N. said last week that Eritrean troops were operating throughout Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and reports suggested they were responsible for atrocities.
The State Department last month said Washington will de-link its pause on some aid to Ethiopia from its policy on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam that sparked a long-running dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
But it cautioned that resumption of assistance would be assessed on a number of factors, including “whether each paused program remains appropriate and timely in light of developments in Ethiopia that occurred subsequent to the pause being put in place,” according to a State Department representative.