EU calls for withdrawal of Eritrean troops

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is pictured at Gondar Airport during a technical stop over on his way to visit Eritrean refugees at Mai Aini Refugee camp, in Ethiopia. Photo/AFP

Brussels, Tuesday

The European Union has joined the US in calling for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from neighbouring Ethiopia’s Tigray state - the presence of whom, it said, was fuelling that the conflict in the state.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously rejected accusations of Eritrean presence in Tigray but their denial has sometimes been contradicted by remarks from officials within the Ethiopian government.

In its statement, the EU said it remained “very concerned by the tragic humanitarian crisis unfolding” in Tigray and urged Ethiopia to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access as well as protection of civilians and refugees.

In response Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel called the statement “appalling for the fundamental issues that it glossed over”.

Satelite imagery

The Norwegian Refugee Council said that buildings and facilities it had set up to provide services within the Hitsaats camp have been burned down. Satellite imagery indicates the damage occurred within 5 and 8 January, the council said.

The camp - together with the Shimelba camp - was home to more than 20,000 Eritrean refugees but it is now inaccessible.

Ethiopia’s refugee agency had earlier said that “sporadic shootings” and “remnants of the TPLF fighting in guerrilla tactics” have made it difficult to reach the two camps.

Fighting broke out between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the federal government in November last year.

Services are slowly returning to the state. The state owned telecom provider Ethio Telecom said that it has restored mobile and landline phone service to the more than 300 sites within the state.

Meanwhile 25 UN staff members have been allowed to Tigray by the government as 60 more aid workers are awaiting approval.

The United Nations’ food agency says it has reached a deal with Ethiopia to expand access for aid workers and “scale up” operations in the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region.

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), made the announcement late on Saturday amid growing fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray, a region of more than five million people.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 ordered air raids and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former governing party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – after its forces attacked federal army bases in the northern region.   - Xinhua

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