Merkley Statement on Committee Passage of Ethiopia Peace and Stabilization Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement regarding the committee’s passage of the Ethiopia Peace and Stabilization Act (S.3199), and the ongoing diplomatic negotiations to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia:

“Today’s committee action is an important step as the United States seeks a comprehensive path forward on Ethiopia. I supported this legislation because it serves as an important tool to encourage the Abiy government and armed groups—particularly the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—to put down their arms and negotiate in good faith for an inclusive peace process that reflects the diverse ethnic makeup of Ethiopia.

“I am grateful that the bill’s leaders incorporated my amendments to help ensure that humanitarian aid gets into Ethiopia. After almost a year and half of fighting, the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia is dire. In Tigray, three out of four individuals—millions of people—are using extreme coping mechanisms to deal with the lack of food, and humanitarian agencies say the region is on the brink of famine. At the same time, southern Ethiopia is being hit hard by drought, intensifying humanitarian needs in a separate region of the country.

“I am disturbed by how all sides have used humanitarian aid as a weapon of war in the conflict and am especially disturbed by the government’s humanitarian blockade of Tigray. It is estimated that 700 trucks per week are needed to reverse the famine conditions in Tigray, but no trucks have been able to transport humanitarian aid or fuel into the area since December 2021. No agricultural inputs have been delivered to the region since July 2021. All of this comes as the Horn of Africa faces a drought that the U.N. has said puts the region ‘on the brink of catastrophe.’ And the situation is worsened by the loss in production from two of the world’s primary wheat suppliers, Ukraine and Russia.  

“There might be a small glimmer of hope, however. Just last week, the Abiy government announced a unilateral truce, which builds on positive steps they took back in January, including reducing air operations, lifting the state of emergency and releasing political detainees, and allowing limited medical and nutritional assistance to get in by air. But this isn’t and hasn’t been enough. The Abiy government must continue to take concrete steps toward peace, including releasing all remaining political prisoners and ensuring the delivery of aid, a key condition of the TPLF’s agreement to respect the ceasefire. The U.S. must hold the Abiy government accountable and ensure President Abiy’s new rhetoric is matched by action, while also recognizing that the TPLF and other militias must respond constructively in kind. This is where the bill comes in.

“By including a variety of sanctions, this bill incentivizes all parties to end the fighting. But, critically, it also provides carrots and sanctions waivers if things move in the right direction. The bill gives the Biden administration the flexibility to capitalize on the Abiy government’s recent overtures, if merited, by providing international financial institution assistance. By doing so, the U.S. can hopefully help put this conflict on the road to durable peace.

“With everything going on in the world at this moment, we cannot forget about Ethiopia. I thank the co-leads of this bill and my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee for shining a spotlight on this protracted conflict and ensuring the U.S. plays a constructive role in ending it.”

Merkley has used his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to speak out on the conflict in Ethiopia, urging the Ethiopian government to cease human rights violations and to enable the flow of humanitarian aid into the country.