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Biden dispatches Democratic senator to Ethiopia amid Tigray crisis

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Senator Chris Coons “will convey President Biden’s grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of wider instability in the Horn of Africa,” he said on Thursday. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Coons “will also consult with the African Union on how to promote the region’s shared interests in peace and prosperity,” Sullivan said.

Democrat Delaware’s trip to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa comes after repeated calls by the Biden administration for unrestricted humanitarian access and an independent investigation into human rights abuses in the region. During a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said for the first time the acts of “ethnic cleansing” had been committed in western Tigray.

“The challenge in Ethiopia is very important. And it’s an issue that we’re very, very focused on, especially the situation in Tigray, where we’re seeing very credible reports of ongoing human rights abuses and atrocities,” Blinken said.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced “nearly $ 52 million in additional assistance to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.”

“This help from the American people will allow our international humanitarian partners to help some of the 4.5 million people in need in Tigray and about 62,000 refugees who have fled to Sudan,” Blinken said in a statement.

In that statement, Blinken reiterated his call for a “cessation of hostilities, an immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and an end to the Ethiopian government’s deployment of Amhara regional forces in Tigray” and “accountability to all.” those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities, whether they are in the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces or the Amhara regional forces “.

“We remain very concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Tigray,” he said. “While we recognize the public commitments and progress made by the Ethiopian government on increasing humanitarian access, the international community must continue to monitor all commitments, including the lifting of import restrictions and use of communications equipment by humanitarian organizations and the provision of extended visas for international humanitarian workers. “

Blinken has called for unrestricted humanitarian access to the region and an independent investigation into reported human rights abuses, which a State Department spokesman noted earlier included reports of “killings, sexual assaults, looting, intentional displacement. of civilians and the forced return of Eritrean refugees. ” . “

A CNN report documented a November massacre at a religious festival last November, where a group of Eritrean soldiers opened fire on Maryam Dengelat’s church while hundreds of congregants celebrated Mass, according to eyewitnesses. This report, based on interviews with 12 eyewitnesses, more than 20 relatives of the survivors and photographic evidence, detailed a three-day campaign of violence, with soldiers killing local residents, displaced people and pilgrims.

The United States Agency for International Development announced in early March that it was deploying a disaster response team “to respond to the growing humanitarian needs arising from the conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.” “.

“After nearly four months of fighting between armed groups, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than four million people need food aid,” the agency said in a statement. “USAID’s DART will lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response. The team includes disaster experts who assess the situation, identify priority needs to expand assistance, and work with partners to provide urgently needed assistance to communities. affected by the conflict “.

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