Jan 10, 2022 - World

Biden raises airstrikes, humanitarian issues during call with Ethiopian PM

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

President Biden spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday at Biden's request to encourage recent “constructive steps,” like the release of political prisoners, while also raising concerns about civilian casualties in the country’s civil war, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: The more than yearlong conflict between the federal government and rebel forces, particularly in Ethiopia's Tigray region, has killed thousands of people and forced millions more to flee, per Reuters.

The big picture: A senior administration official told reporters on a call Monday afternoon that the purpose of the phone call between the two leaders was to "reinforce some of the more constructive steps" that have been taken recently.

  • These include the government's release of prisoners, pledges regarding humanitarian access, and both sides' recent openness to dialogue, they added.
  • “This could be a moment of opportunity, but only if the parties are willing to take advantage of it," the official said.

The call was also an opportunity for Biden to reiterate areas where the U.S. would like to see progress made, namely government forces staying out of Tigray, an end to airstrikes, the expansion of humanitarian access to all regions of the country, and engagement in ceasefire talks, the official said.

  • Biden also raised concerns about the conflict's civilian casualties, per the statement.

Catch up quick: In November, Tigrayan rebels launched an offensive and reportedly got within 200 miles of the capital, but government forces under Abiy recently launched a counteroffensive.

  • While government forces released several high-profile prisoners on Friday in a positive step, later that evening a government airstrike killed 56 people in a displaced persons camp in Tigray, Reuters reported.
Go deeper