WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees, spoke today with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as the Ethiopian National Defense Forces prepare for a military offensive against Mekelle, the capital city of the northern Tigray province.

Senator Coons expressed concern about the rapidly escalating conflict with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and urged Prime Minister Abiy to pursue dialogue and reconciliation. Senator Coons emphasized the need to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access, and he raised alarm about disturbing reports of human rights violations on both sides. They discussed the African Union mediation effort announced by AU Chairman and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Senator Coons and Prime Minister Abiy discussed the risk of protracted ethnic conflict and the consequences for Ethiopia’s democratic transition and the stability of East Africa and the Red Sea region, as the UN refugee agency reports that nearly 40,000 refugees have fled to Sudan in recent days. Senator Coons underscored the importance of a stable, democratic, and prosperous Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is Africa’s second most populous country. Major U.S. companies including General Electric and Dow have operations in the East African country. Ethiopia is an important security partner in a volatile region. It hosts the African Union headquarters and is the world’s largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, with forces deployed to UN missions in Sudan and South Sudan, and in Somalia as part of a multinational effort to counter Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab.