US, China tussle over Ethiopia sanctions
The United States has announced new sanctions against the Ethiopian government, and China has opposed the move, in line with its general non-interference policy.
Last week, US President Joe Biden signed a new executive order authorizing broad sanctions against those allegedly involved in ‘perpetrating’ the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
The administration did not immediately impose sanctions under the new order, but "is prepared to take aggressive action" unless the parties -- including the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, and the Amhara Regional Government -- "take meaningful steps to enter into talks for a negotiated ceasefire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access," a senior administration official told reporters.
China has meanwhile, stated categorically that it opposes the new round of sanctions imposed by the United States on Ethiopia.
Speaking last Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China always holds that international law and basic norms governing international relations must be adhered to in state-to-state relations. China opposes wanton pressure through sanctions or the threat of imposing sanctions to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, Zhao added.
He urged that the United States should prudently handle issues related to Ethiopia and play a constructive role in restoring peace and stability in the country.
"We believe that Ethiopia, as China's important cooperative partner in Africa, has the wisdom and capability to properly resolve internal differences, and hope the country could achieve national reconciliation and restore peace and stability at an early date," Zhao said.
Fighting erupted in Tigray in November last year when the government accused the TPLF — once the region’s powerful ruling party — of attacking military bases across the north. Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it gained control of the regional capital, Mekelle.
TPLF forces, who had retreated to the mountainous areas around the Tigrayan capital, resumed fighting later, however. TPLF retook Mekelle and most of Tigray at the end of June after the government pulled out its soldiers and declared a now faltering ceasefire.
TPLF, which had played a major role in Ethiopian politics before Abiy came to power, sees itself as a strong force in the region.
The conflict has sparked concern for the stability of Africa’s second most populous country.
Last May, thousands of people took part in an anti-US rally in the capital Addis Abbaba, denouncing President Joe Biden's policy on the conflict in the country's northern region of Tigray.
The rally, and smaller ones elsewhere in Ethiopia, was organized by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth under the banner "Our voice for freedom and sovereignty".
Meanwhile, Eritrea’s foreign minister has blamed US administrations that supported the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement (TPLF) for the last 20 years for the current conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, adding that blaming Eritrea for the fighting was unfounded.
In a letter to the UN Security Council last June, Osman Saleh accused President Joe Biden’s administration of “stoking further conflict and destabilization” through interference and intimidation in the region, apparently to “resuscitate the remnants of the TPLF regime”.