Update: UN Secretary General joins growing calls for Eritrean forces to leave Tigray

UN Secretary General General António Guterres. Photo: Office of the Spokesperson

Addis Abeba, March 4/2021 – The UN Secretary General General António Guterres joined growing numbers of countries calling on Eritrean forces to leave Tigray, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told journalists during his press briefing today. When asked if the Secretary General was “calling for Eritrean troops to leave Tigray”, Mr. Dujarric responded “yes, yes.”               

Mr Dujarric also said the UN “fully supports” the statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet calling for access to Tigray Regional state to probe possible war crime. “Without prompt, impartial and transparent investigations and holding those responsible accountable, I fear violations will continue to be committed with impunity, and the situation will remain volatile for a long time to come,” Ms Bachelet said in her statement.

On December 09, the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that there was no proof of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. “We have no proof of the presence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. I confronted the (Ethiopian) prime minister with that question, and he guaranteed to me that they have not entered the Tigrayan territory, that the only area where they are is the area that corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that in the peace agreement was decided to give back to Eritrea.”

Since then, the Secretary General has had a number of conversations with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his messages “privately and publicly are the same, which is to increase humanitarian access, to stop the fighting and work on issues of reconciliation. He continued to be very concerned by the overall situation,” Mr Dujarric further said.  

Mr Dujarric acknowledged that there are “some improvement in the humanitarian access and lessoning of bureaucratic hurdles, but the headline that we are seeing about human rights violations, mass killings, and sexual violence is extremely concerning and the secretary general fully supports the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.” Bachelet “is acknowledging what’s been in the public domain; she has been very clear in listing the groups who could be guilty of crimes against humanity of war crimes, and the Secretary General fully backs her call for independent investigations,” he added.  

On Mark Lowcock’s briefing  

Stephane Dujarric summarized the report by Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed the Security Council today. “He focused on the current humanitarian situation; access to the region; and action needed to scale up humanitarian deliveries.”

“Mr. Lowcock pointed out that at least 4.5 million people in Tigray need assistance, according to official estimates. Many people in rural areas remain inaccessible and food security is a major concern. 
Access to water, hygiene and sanitation services are largely disrupted across Tigray, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks, including water-borne diseases, measles and COVID-19. Health services are also disrupted with only 22 per cent of the 205 health facilities in Tigray being fully functional.”  

 Mr. Lowcock briefed the Security Council that “despite the recent progress, much more needs to be done to get aid to people who need it throughout Tigray. He emphasized the need to dramatically scale-up humanitarian assistance throughout the province by facilitating independent need assessments; deploying humanitarian staff throughout the province; restoring of basic communications and banking services and also called for increased urgent funding for humanitarian operations.” AS

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