UN Security Council to meet on Ethiopia’s Tigray

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Berlin, Germany - November 04: Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, attends a press conference in german foreign office on November 04, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

The UN Security Council was due to hold its first meeting on the conflict in Ethiopia’s dissident Tigray region Tuesday, amid division between European and African members over whether the closed-door discussion should take place.

France, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Estonia, backed by the United States, announced the virtual meeting would go ahead after African countries pulled out of organizing it.

“They say ‘Africans solutions to African problems.’ It is something that we have to respect only to a certain degree,” a European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“At a certain moment, we have to put it on the agenda, even if the Africans don’t like it,” he added, highlighting the Europeans’ impatience over the lack of Security Council action on the weeks-long fighting.

Earlier, South Africa, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines withdrew their request because envoys have yet to travel to Ethiopia, said one African diplomat.

“It is necessary to allow more time for the regional efforts that are being undertaken in this regard,” he had told AFP.

The African Union announced on Friday that three former presidents had been appointed as special envoys to Ethiopia to help mediation efforts between the conflicting parties.

Forces loyal to Tigray’s ruling party have been battling Ethiopian soldiers for nearly three weeks.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ordered the leaders of the northern region of Tigray to surrender ahead of a threatened all-out assault on its capital, Mekele.

Abiy launched the military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on November 4, accusing it of attacking two federal military camps in the region, and of seeking to destabilize his government.

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed, but a communications blackout has made claims from both sides difficult to verify.

UN chief Antonio Guterres last week called for the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist civilians caught in the fighting, noting that authorities had so far rejected attempts at mediation.

“We are very worried about the situation in Ethiopia,” the secretary-general told reporters in New York, warning of a “dramatic humanitarian impact” including in neighbouring Sudan.

“We have been asking for the full respect of international humanitarian law and also for the opening of humanitarian corridors and the truces that might be necessary for humanitarian aid to be delivered,” he said.

Over 40,000 Ethiopians have fled to neighbouring Sudan, the UN’s refugee agency said Monday.

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