The White House said Biden raised to Abiy the airstrikes that continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering in Africa’s second most populous nation.
The statement added that the leaders “discussed ways to accelerate dialogue toward a negotiated cease-fire, the urgency of improving humanitarian access across Ethiopia, and the need to address the human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detentions of Ethiopians under the state of emergency.”
Abiy on Twitter described the conversation with Biden as “candid” and both agreed “there is great value in strengthening our cooperation through constructive engagement founded on mutual respect.”
The call was requested by Biden after Jeffrey Feltman, the outgoing U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, visited Ethiopia last week for talks with senior leaders.
The more than yearlong war has created a devastating humanitarian crisis. The conflict entered a new phase in late December when Tigray forces retreated into their region amid a new military offensive and Ethiopian forces said they would not advance further there.
Biden stressed to Abiy that the two sides must take advantage of the moment and called on the Ethiopian leader to improve humanitarian access, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the leaders’ call on the condition of anonymity. White House officials are concerned that if momentum is not maintained, the conflict—which has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands facing famine—could further deteriorate.
Ethiopia’s government has sought to restrict reporting on the conflict and detained some journalists, including a video freelancer accredited to the AP, Amir Aman Kiyaro.
Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed.