Department Press Briefing
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
October 31, 2022
QUESTION: Yeah. It says Ethiopian condemns (inaudible) allegation of atrocities for sinister political agenda. Since I gave you the letter, I don’t have to read it all – to read all the letters. But at the end, the Ethiopian Government says, “The Government of Ethiopia is thus forced to weigh its [option] and consider its relations with some states and entities that are making unsubstantiated and politically motivated accusations of such gravity against the country.” What is your thought on this kind of allegation?
MR PRICE: Well, I couldn’t speak to the precise allegations in this document. I would have to review the underlying data and intent. But the goal of the United States, the goal of the AU-led mediation process, the AU-led talks, is really quite simple: there is no ulterior political objective. The objective is quite simple: to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities, to achieve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need, additional measures – securing measures to protect civilians, and seeing Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia.
To your question and to the statement that you provided to me, the third point about protection of civilians is important. There is no question that there have been a number of reports, many of them credible, of human rights violations and atrocities that have been uncovered in the course of this terrible conflict that has just spread such devastation across parts of northern Ethiopia. We’re deeply troubled the potential for mass atrocities. We reiterate our grave concern over reports of violence committed against civilians during the conflict. And we call again on all armed actors to immediately cease all such violence and to end hostilities to enable the space for peaceful – for a peaceful resolution.
We believe the ongoing talks in South Africa, where our Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer continues to – continues to be both as a participant and an observer – we believe this dialogue and these talks provide the best opportunity for the parties to sit down together and hopefully for the parties to bridge their differences and to make progress against these four goals.
QUESTION: Ned, we all want to see this war to end peacefully. But as you know, the first peace talks held between the Ethiopian Government and TPLF, these fell apart. And the second peace talks, as you mentioned, in South African supposed to be completed yesterday; however, it is announced that the talk will continue until Wednesday. I mean, is this indication of the peace talk starting to fall apart? I mean, they haven’t announced why they postpone it and why they want to continue until Wednesday. Do you have anything to say about it?
MR PRICE: It’s an indication that the parties arrived in South Africa with quite a bit of distance between them, but it’s also an indication that the parties continue to be willing to sit down together in what we hope to be a constructive atmosphere and ultimately an atmosphere when the parties can discuss their differences and continue to narrow the distance between them.
I know we will continue to be engaged in support of this AU-led process. Our special envoy will remain in South Africa for as long as the talks continue. At least that’s his plan as of now. We think it is a good thing that the parties continue to talk
UESTION: Just one – one different thing briefly, unless you want to follow up on Brazil. Just a completely different – DRC-Rwanda. The Secretary invested some energy there in August, of course. The DRC has expelled the Rwandan ambassador. There’s some protests in the DRC. To what extent is the United States involved diplomatically now? How concerned are you about the situation?
MR PRICE: We remain engaged with the countries. As you know, as you I think were there, Secretary Blinken did travel to the DRC and Rwanda in August to have discussions on the tensions there that have mounted for some time. We’re deeply concerned by recent developments in the eastern DRC, particularly the renewed M23-FARDC hostilities that have occurred since October 20th. We support the African-led mediation efforts to address the regional tension in the eastern DRC, including those led by the East African Community, Kenya, and Angola. And we encourage countries in the region to work together to restore peace, security, and trust while respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
State support of armed groups is unacceptable, and we reiterate our concern about Rwanda’s support to the M23. That was a message that the Rwandans heard directly from Secretary Blinken in August. I can tell you that senior officials from this building over the weekend, last week, have been in frequent contact with counterparts in Rwanda, in the DRC, seeking to bring about a de-escalation of tensions.
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