Biden Team Warns Ethiopia After CNN Report on Arms Smuggling
October 6, 2021
The Biden administration called a news report that Ethiopian Airlines Group ferried arms to Eritrea a grave allegation and noted Ethiopia could be hit with U.S. sanctions if conflict in the Tigray region persists.
The U.S. is prepared to use all tools at its disposal to stop fighting in Tigray that’s left millions of people in need of aid, including the authority to sanction individuals and entities determined to be prolonging conflict, a senior administration official said. The transport of arms by the state-owned carrier could also violate the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the official said.
A CNN investigation found that weapons were transported between Addis Ababa’s international airport and airports in the Eritrean cities of Asmara and Massawa on Ethiopian Airlines planes during the opening weeks of the Tigray conflict. The Tigray fighting has created a humanitarian and economic crisis, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
The airline has denied CNN’s report, which cited cargo documentation, manifests, photographs and eyewitness accounts.
“Ethiopian Airlines would like to confirm that to the best of its knowledge and its records, it has not transported any war armament in any of its routes by any of its aircraft,” Group Corporate Communications Manager Ali Mohammed said in an emailed response to questions.
U.S. sanctions could deal a major blow to Ethiopia and its airline, which earlier this month announced it had signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with Boeing Co. to expand aviation training, development, and manufacturing in the country. Ethiopian Airlines is also one of three Africa-based airlines in the Star Alliance partnership that includes United Airlines Holdings Inc.