UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN Security Council on Thursday expressed concern over humanitarian conditions and human rights in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, marking the council’s first collective comment on the conflict that has raged in the region for six months.
The statement made no mention of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray, although UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock and Amnesty International said last week that troops remain weeks after Ethiopia said it would leave. US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday that “we have seen no evidence that Eritrean troops are withdrawing from Tigray.”
In November, political tensions between the government of Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed and the leaders of Tigray erupted into a war. Eritrea collaborated with neighboring Ethiopia in the conflict. Thousands of people were killed.
The United States denounced ethnic cleansing in western Tigray, a claim that Ethiopian authorities dismiss as unfounded. The term refers to the forcing of a population from a region through deportation and other violence, often including murder and rape.
Ethiopia said life in Tigray is returning to normal.
Lowcock, meanwhile, told the council last week that some 4.5 million of Tigray’s 6 million are in need of humanitarian aid and that “there is no doubt that sexual violence is being used in this conflict as a weapon of war.” He cited numerous reports of rape. and other sexual attacks, mainly by men wearing uniforms of various forces.
In Thursday’s statement, the council expressed “deep concern over allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual assault.” It welcomed an agreement by the United Nations and an Ethiopian rights agency to conduct a joint investigation into the reported abuses.
The council also acknowledged Ethiopia’s humanitarian efforts, but called for a broader response, unrestricted humanitarian access to all in need and “a restoration of normalcy”.