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US top diplomat warns Ethiopia faces implosion as conflict spirals

Ethiopia is increasingly facing the prospect of an implosion that would be “disastrous” for its neighbors, the US warned on Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ethiopia’s warring parties have the option to turn to negotiations and prevent all-out collapse, but warned that if civil war envelops the country the consequences would be dire for the region.

“I am very concerned about the potential for Ethiopia to implode given what we’re seeing, both in Tigray, but also as we have different forces, and different ethnic groups that are increasingly at odds,” Blinken said at the State Department, warning that if the parties choose “out-and-out conflict” the result could spill over in to other countries in the region.

“That would be disastrous for the Ethiopian people, and also for countries in the region,” added Blinken.

The comments come after the Biden administration issued its first tranche of sanctions targeting those involved in the Ethiopian conflict, blacklisting a handful of Eritrean individuals and economic entities, including its military and its president’s political party.

Eritrea sent its military into northern Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in support of the Ethiopian central government, which has been locked in a conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for over a year.

US President Joe Biden signed in September authorizations allowing the State and Treasury departments to impose sanctions on all parties to the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, but stopped short of imposing sanctions to allow for the parties to negotiate a political settlement.

The administration warned in September that it wanted to see movement on its goals within a matter of weeks, not months, but apparently gave additional time for the parties to act.

The conflict has, however, dramatically escalated in the interim with the TPLF forming alliances with other groups opposed to Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed, and making major military strides as they close in on the capital of Addis Ababa.

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