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U.S. imposes visa restrictions on Ethiopia, Eritrea officials over Tigray fighting

The Biden administration warned those responsible for prolonging the fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region that if they continue to block the peace process further punitive actions will be pursued. The United Nations has said that more than 2 million people have been displaced since the fighting began in November. Photo by Ala Kheir/EPA-EFE
The Biden administration warned those responsible for prolonging the fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region that if they continue to block the peace process further punitive actions will be pursued. The United Nations has said that more than 2 million people have been displaced since the fighting began in November. Photo by Ala Kheir/EPA-EFE

May 24 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has announced visa restrictions against Ethiopian and Eritrean officials it holds responsible for undermining the diplomatic process to the end the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region while warning further punitive actions could follow.

The fighting erupted in Tigray in November when Ethiopian forces under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched attacks against the Tigray People's Liberation Front for control of the region.

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Abiy said on Nov. 28 that the military operation had "completed and ceased," but fighting has persisted, resulting in millions displaced.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the visa restrictions on the officials as well as Amhara regional and irregular forces and members of the TPLF in a statement Sunday, stating those targeted have conducted "wrongful violence" and other abuses against civilians and have hindered access of humanitarian aid as well as are responsible for undermining the peace process.

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"People in Tigray continue to suffer human rights violations, abuses and atrocities, and urgently needed humanitarian relief is being blocked by the Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries as well as other armed actors," he said. "Despite significant diplomatic engagement, the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis."

Blinken also announced wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia, stating the United States will also bring its defense trade control policy in alignment with the punitive measures.

"Should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community," he said. "We call on other governments to join us in taking these actions."

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The restrictions were imposed days after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated humanitarian access to Tigray remains unpredictable with increased incidents of denial of movement of cargo and confiscation of humanitarian vehicles and supplies by those involved in the fighting.

The office said the fighting has displaced more than 2 million people with more than 63,110 seeking refuge in nearby Sudan. It added that an estimated 5.2 million people, representing 91% of the country's population, are in need of assistance.

UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters during a press briefing on April 20 that children have been hard hit by this crisis on top of the coronavirus pandemic, stating "what is emerging is a disturbing picture of severe and ongoing child rights violation."

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"This crisis in Tigray has entered its sixth month with no clear end in sight," he said.

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