Fighting between Ethiopia’s military and regional forces from the northern Tigray region is seriously destabilising the East African and Horn region and hostilities should halt, the European Union foreign policy chief said.
Hundreds of people have been killed since fighting began on Nov. 4, more than 41,000 refugees have fled to Sudan and there are reports of militias targeting civilians.
“I expressed my great concern regarding increasing ethnic-targeted violence, numerous casualties and violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law,” Josep Borrell said late on Tuesday after speaking to Ethiopia’s foreign minister.
A 72-hour government deadline for Tigray forces to surrender is due to expire on Wednesday evening. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party spearheading the fighting, has rejected the ultimatum.
Ethiopia has described the fighting as an internal law enforcement matter, a position Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reiterated in a statement on Wednesday. “We reject any interference in our internal affairs,” he said.
Borrel signalled his support for the African Union (AU) bloc’s attempts to mediate. “That is the only way forward to avoid further destabilisation,” he said.
Three AU envoys – former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa – were due to arrive in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.
With global alarm rising fast, European nations raised the conflict at a closed-doors meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, diplomats said.
Members of the council expressed concern, diplomats said, but South Africa, Niger and Tunisia urged more time for regional mediation efforts before the council considers action.