A veteran US diplomat who has handled turbulent ties with Turkey was named Thursday to tackle crises in Sudan and Ethiopia as the outgoing envoy looked to make progress in Addis Ababa.
David Satterfield, the outgoing US ambassador to Turkey who has worked extensively in the Middle East, will become special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced.
"Ambassador Satterfield's decades of diplomatic experience and work amidst some of the world's most challenging conflicts will be instrumental in our continued effort to promote a peaceful and prosperous Horn of Africa and to advance US interests in this strategic region," Blinken said in a statement.
He will replace Jeffrey Feltman, who quit just as he visited Ethiopia on a bid to encourage peace talks to end more than a year of war following the withdrawal of Tigrayan rebels.
Feltman held "constructive, substantive discussions" in Addis Ababa with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
The United States will work to see that "any positive momentum from discussions can be quickly realized," Price said.
"We continue to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, an end to human rights atrocities, unhindered humanitarian access and a negotiated resolution to the conflict."
The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, which last year advanced so far it threatened to march on Addis Ababa, by December had withdrawn to its stronghold, and the government has not pursued the rebels further on the ground.
Setbacks in Sudan
Feltman, also a veteran US diplomat who formerly held a top position at the United Nations, had intended to serve less than a year when named in early 2021, Blinken said.
But in addition to dealing with bloodshed in Ethiopia, Feltman was treated unceremoniously in October when Sudan's military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, carried out a coup just after the US envoy had left the country with apparently no advance warning.
Feltman's resignation comes days after Sudan's civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, quit, leaving Burhan as the undisputed leader of the country despite Western calls to preserve a democratic transition launched in 2019.
Satterfield was closely involved in delicate US diplomacy with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has irritated the United States by buying weapons from Russia and championing Islamist causes.
Satterfield arrived in Ankara in 2019 just before then US president Donald Trump ordered an abrupt withdrawal from Syria pushed by Erdogan.
Satterfield, who also has extensive experience in Egypt and Libya, was one of the few Trump appointees kept in place when President Joe Biden took office.
He left after the Senate, where many of Biden's nominees have languished for months due to Republican opposition, confirmed his successor, Jeff Flake.
A former senator, Flake was one of the most vocal critics of Trump within his Republican Party.