Ethiopian PM promises ‘immediate access’ to crisis-hit Tigray: UN

Ethiopia’s prime minister has promised “immediate access” for humanitarian groups to Tigray, the United Nations said on Friday after the United States and the European Union compared the Ethiopian government’s current treatment of the embattled region to a “siege.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to discuss the extremely concerning humanitarian situation in the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region.

The Secretary-General welcomed Ahmed’s assurances that his government would facilitate immediate access to Tigray for humanitarian organizations, as well as the latter’s commitment that essential basic services, including power and communications, will resume swiftly, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief’s spokesman, said in a statement on Friday.

The humanitarian situation in Tigray, which faces the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade, is “extremely concerning,” the UN said after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke Thursday by phone. Abiy also said basic services to Tigray including electricity and communications “will resume swiftly,” the UN said.

The Secretary-General also acknowledged the Ethiopian government’s pledge to use the ceasefire in Tigray to facilitate urgent humanitarian assistance, including regular UN humanitarian flights into the region, as well as support for agricultural activities, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.

Guterres reiterated his call on all parties to meet their obligations to protect civilians, provide unimpeded humanitarian access and observe international humanitarian law, it added.

Since the early hours of November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government launched military operations against the TLPF after the latter rejected political reforms and captured army bases.

Ethiopia’s government last month declared a unilateral cease-fire in Tigray as its soldiers retreated ahead of resurgent Tigray fighters loyal to the region’s elected government, which Ethiopia now calls a terrorist group. The war, now in its ninth month, followed months of political tensions and Abiy’s accusation that Tigray forces had attacked a military base.

The fierce fighting between the two sides has left thousands of people dead.

More than two million have been displaced and 350,000 pushed towards famine.

The war has threatened to destabilize Africa’s second-most populous country, an anchor in the strategic Horn of Africa region. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and the conflict threatens to draw in neighboring Sudan as Tigray forces fight their way in that direction in the hope of finding an opening to the outside world.

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