U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday, expressing his concern about ongoing hostilities in the country and recent airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in the Tigray region.
The White House said the two leaders “discussed ways to accelerate dialogue toward a negotiated ceasefire” after a year of civil war in the country that has left thousands of people dead and forced more than two million from their homes.
The White House said Biden stressed “the urgency of improving humanitarian access across Ethiopia, and the need to address the human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detentions of Ethiopians under the state of emergency.”
The Biden administration gave no indication of Abiy’s reaction to the U.S. leader’s concerns.
The White House, in a statement about the call, said Biden “expressed concern that the ongoing hostilities, including recent air strikes, continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering, and he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to work alongside the African Union and regional partners to help Ethiopians peacefully resolve the conflict.”
“Both leaders underscored the importance of the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship, the potential to strengthen cooperation on a range of issues, and the need for concrete progress to resolve the conflict,” the White House said.
Biden made the call as aid agencies ceased operations in a northwest area of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, near the border with Eritrea, after an airstrike there late Friday killed 56 civilians displaced by the conflict and wounded 30 others.
“Humanitarian partners suspended activities in the area due the ongoing threats of drone strikes,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement Sunday.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that has ruled Tigray for decades, condemned the airstrike.
In statement Saturday, the TPLF accused the Ethiopian government of targeting civilians and also accused Eritrean forces of attacking Tigrayan fighters in northwest Tigray.
Ethiopia’s federal authorities did not immediately comment on the accusations or the U.N. announcement on the aid groups’ withdrawal.
But, since the outbreak of the war with Tigrayan rebels in November 2020, authorities have denied targeting civilians.