UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has demanded that forces from neighboring Eritrea, accused of committing atrocities in the embattled Tigray province, leave Ethiopia immediately.
Mr. Lowcock addressed a closed session of the UN Security Council on Thursday, warning that “a campaign of destruction” was taking place in Tigray, where, according to him, at least 4.5 million people need urgent assistance.
As the Tigray crisis enters its fourth month, Mr. Lowcock said, the humanitarian crisis is deteriorating and “multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray … speak of widespread atrocities, involving mass killings, rapes and abductions of civilians, ongoing fighting across the region” as well as the destruction of harvests and key agricultural machinery.
He singled out Eritrean forces as fighting on the side of the Ethiopian government, and warned of possible famine “if food does not get through and there is no agricultural revival.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also urged Eritrea to withdraw its forces from the area.
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said after the Security Council meeting that the US wanted the Ethiopian government to “support an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray”, meaning “the prompt withdrawal of Eritrean forces” and forces from Tigray’s neighbouring Amhara region.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric
said Mr. Guterres supports Mr. Lowcock’s demand.
In calling for the departure of the Eritreans, Mr. Lowcock said, “It is now abundantly clear to all, and openly acknowledged by officials of the government administration in Tigray, that Eritrean Defense Forces are operating throughout Tigray.”
“Eritrean Defense Forces must leave Ethiopia, and they must not be enabled or permitted to continue their campaign of destruction before they do so,” he added.
A UN Security Council press statement on Tigray, drafted by Ireland, is still being discussed, The Associated Press reports council diplomats as saying.
As fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces, on the one hand, and loyalist troops of Tigray’s now-fugitive leaders, on the other, alarm is growing over the fate of the province’s estimated 6 million people. It is unclear how many thousands of civilians have been killed since the conflict erupted in November.
Accounts of atrocities against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by Amnesty International and the Associated Press.