US Congressman calls for sanctions on Ethiopian Airlines over alleged role in Tigray conflict

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  • A loan for Ethiopian Airlines could be withheld by the Export-Import Bank of the US.
  • The airline has been implicated in transporting arms of war to the Eritrean army for use in the Tigray conflict.
  • Commanders from the TPLF and Ethiopian government are meeting in Nairobi to review the execution of a peace treaty.

The US has been urged to withhold a loan to Ethiopian Airlines until the government in Addis Ababa meets some standards set out by the cessation of hostilities agreement reached in Pretoria in November.

US Congressman Brad Sherman - in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and copied to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo as well as Reta Jo Lewis, the president and chairperson of the Export-Import Bank of the US - demanded Tigray should see unrestricted humanitarian assistance, banking, internet, and medicine before the US$100 million (about R1.75 billion) loan was disbursed.

"We urge you to delay action on the proposed loan AP089457XX which would provide $100 million for Ethiopian Airlines to buy Boeing passenger and cargo airplanes," he said in the letter.

The airline finds itself on the sanctions radar because of its alleged role in the conflict, providing logistical support to the Ethiopian army.

READ | 'We don't talk a lot about Ethiopia': EU foreign policy chief says Ukraine focused on more than Tigray crisis

"Ethiopian Airlines which is state-owned, itself has been directly implicated in the conflict.

"Ethiopian Airlines planes were used to transport arms between Addis Ababa and Eritrea in violation of international aviation law," Sherman argued.

In his letter, he reminded the recipients of US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee's promise to Congress the country would not support Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government financially as long as there was no end to the conflict in Tigray.

Sherman added "many of the Ethiopian government's commitments have not yet been fulfilled".

According to the UN Security Council, the cessation of hostilities had not yet resulted in the basic restoration of commerce, health, and day-to-day life services in Tigray.

For its part, while vowing to eventually restore services such as internet communication, banking, and telecommunication, which were cut when the war began in November 2020, Ethiopia said there was "no timeline".

The chairperson of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and a signatory to the cessation of hostilities, Debretsion Gebremichael, told the media Eritrean and Amhara forces were still committing "heinous crimes" and urged Ethiopia to pull them out of the region to implement the peace deal.

READ | Crisis-hit Somalia, Ethiopia top aid group's Watchlist for 2023

But the Ethiopian government said while it was true there were incidences of violations, it was in areas it had not reached to take control of as stipulated by the cessation of hostilities. 

As such, criminal elements operating in those areas were taking advantage of the transition period but eventually, they would be brought to book.

Army commanders from the Ethiopian army and TPLF are currently meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, for a three-day consultative meeting on the implementation of the peace deal.

They are expected to address logistics around the implementation of the disarmament process, finalisation and adoption of the set terms for the African Union monitoring, verification, and compliance mechanism.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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