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Tigray: Fighting must end, urges Guterres, amid ‘staggering’ level of need

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Tigray: Fighting must end, urges Guterres, amid ‘staggering’ level of need

Peace and Security

Fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia is “spiralling out of control”, and there is no military solution to end nearly two years of brutal conflict which has left tens of thousands reportedly dead, while the “social fabric, is being ripped apart”.

That’s according to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres who briefed correspondents on Monday morning outside the Security Council, stating that the violence and destruction “have reached alarming levels.”

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It was the second intervention from the UN chief in as many days, as reports emerged of heavy bombing of Shire and other Tigrayan cities, and food supplies running out in the regional capital Mekelle, amid rising concerns over a possible famine.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced since Government troops began battling separatist Tigray forces in November 2020, following rising tensions between national and regional authorities.

Eritrean troops have reportedly joined forces with the Ethiopian army and crossed the border into Tigray. Aid distribution has been severely hampered since an uptick in fighting since August, along with a lack of fuel and communications blackout.

Eritrean pull-back

The UN chief said there must be an “immediate withdrawal and disengagement of Eritrean armed forces from Ethiopia”, adding that civilians were “paying a horrific price” across the region.

“Indiscriminate attacks - including in residential areas - are killing more innocent people every day, damaging critical infrastructure and limiting access to vital services.”

He said disturbing accounts had been received of “sexual violence and other acts of brutality against women, children and men. All parties must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

The level of need, he said, was now staggering and even before the resumption of fighting in August following a five-month lull, 13 million had been in need across the war zone comprising Tigray, Amhara and Afar in the north.

7-week aid suspension

Deliveries of aid into Tigray have been suspended for over seven weeks, Mr. Guterres said, and assistance to Amhara and Afar has also been disrupted.

“All parties must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need. The United Nations is ready to support the African Union in every possible way to end this nightmare for the Ethiopian people.”

He added his voice to the AU’s call for a resumption of talks, which had been due to take place in South Africa last month.

“We need the urgent resumption of talks towards an effective, lasting political settlement”, said the Secretary-General. “The international community must rally together now for peace in Ethiopia.”

Haiti: Humanitarian corridor must be established by force

The blockade of vital humanitarian and civilian supplies in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince by heavily-armed gangs, and the growing risk posed by cholera, necessitates “armed action” to create a life-saving humanitarian corridor, the UN chief said, in response to journalists’ questions on Monday.

The absence of fuel had triggered a water crisis, which is now fuelling the cholera outbreak which has already killed dozens: “You know that the treatment for cholera, the most important treatment is hydration, and there is no water available in the city."

‘Nightmarish situation’

"So, it’s an absolutely nightmarish situation for the population of Haiti, especially Port-au-Prince.”

Mr. Guterres said this was why he had been urging the Security Council to act, to strengthen the national police force with training and equipment. But the current crisis meant that more needed to be done.

In the present circumstances, we need an armed action to release the port and to allow for a humanitarian corridor to be established…I am talking of something to be done based on strict humanitarian criteria, independent of the political dimensions of the problem that need to be solved by the Haitians themselves.”

Ethiopia: "Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels" - UN Chief Media Stakeout