The US government has indicated that it will not rush to use the sanctions card against the warring factions in Ethiopia even though fresh fighting has broken out and Eritrea has rejoined the war.
In a digital media briefing on September 20, the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, said that Washington’s main objective was to have the Tigrayan Regional Authority and the Government of Ethiopia to stop fighting, and accept and participate in the African Union (AU)-led peace process.
He said that while the US wants to focus on the positive aspects of the initiative to encourage the parties to enter into peace talks, Washington is looking at a range of options geared towards peace.
“And while, of course, there’s always a sanctions option available and we will not hesitate to sanction those that are deserving of being sanctioned, right now our focus is bringing the parties to the negotiation table,” said Mr Hammer.
President Joe Biden in September last year signed an executive order that allows the US government to impose sanctions against those responsible for a range of serious human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia.
The sanctions regime allows the US government to deny visas and freeze the assets of individuals and entities responsible for or complicit in serious abuses and obstructing access to humanitarian aid.
As the US launches a new initiative to put pressure on the warring parties to negotiate, Mr Hammer conceded that Washington will not be relying on any diplomatic leverage over Ethiopia, but will be relying on the historic relationship and strategic partnership with Ethiopia to ensure that peace negotiations come to fruition.
“There is pretty much good understanding that we can be an honest broker, that we can help the parties come together in a support role of the African Union. The fighting is not going to yield victory for either side and, therefore, the focus needs to be on stopping the fighting, ensuring humanitarian assistance delivery, and looking at restoration of basic services,” said Mr Hammer.
The Special Envoy expressed concern that the biggest obstacle appears to be the lack of trust between the warring parties.
“There is no confidence on either side that the other can be trusted, and that is why it’s through the AU-led efforts, through efforts of the United States, through efforts of others, that we can hope to bring them together,” he said.