Delegates Welcome Ceasefire, Efforts towards Opening Access, Protecting Civilians
Amid a recent ceasefire in the battled-plagued region of Tigray, Ethiopia, all parties must now immediately open access to humanitarian aid to stave off an impending famine, and work towards peace talks to end the violence, high-level United Nations officials told the Security Council today.
“The consequences of not doing so could be disastrous,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. Ethiopia is at a critical juncture, she continued, calling on the parties to place paramount concern on the protection and well-being of the 1.7 million people who have been displaced by the eight-month-long conflict, including more than 60,000 refugees who have crossed into Sudan. There must also be accountability for grave human rights violations, she added, urging the parties to assist the ongoing joint investigation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
Updating the Council on recent developments, she pointed to the unilateral ceasefire in Tigray, announced on 28 June by the federal Government, and the withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defence Force and the Provisional Tigray Administration from Tigray’s capital Mekelle. However, the Tigray Defence Force, which took control of Mekelle on 27 and 28 June, has yet to agree to the ceasefire, she said, noting that basic services to support humanitarian delivery are absent. Calling upon the Tigray Defence Force to immediately join the ceasefire, she said all parties should seize the opportunity to end hostilities.
In this vein, she welcomed the announcement by Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs that the federal Government will take steps to hold an all-inclusive dialogue once election results are announced. Expressing hope that elections can be held in a peaceful and secure environment, she proposed several areas for concerted international support, including by calling for a permanent ceasefire to be honoured by all parties and urging Ethiopia’s leaders to swiftly restore national unity through an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation process.
Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted the dramatic worsening of the situation since his last Council briefing on 15 June, with 2 million people currently displaced and close to 5.2 million requiring assistance. An alarming spike in food insecurity and hunger due to conflict reflects one of the most worrying trends, he said, adding that more than 400,000 people have crossed the threshold into famine and another 1.8 million are on its brink ahead of worsening food insecurity expected during the coming rainy season.
The only way to stop the humanitarian situation from further deteriorating is peace, he said. Welcoming the Government’s announcement today, he anticipated working together towards common goals. There can be no reason for the ceasefire to fail and humanitarian convoys to be blocked, he said, voicing hope that the new mechanism can be operational within the next 48 hours with a view to saving lives. He asked the Security Council and those with influence to help humanitarian organizations to do their critical work: saving lives and preventing famine and further suffering.
During the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed the ceasefire and all efforts towards opening access to aid deliveries and protecting civilians. Many underlined the importance of ending impunity for the more than 1,000 reports of sexual and gender-based violence and other grave crimes.
Some called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops, with several delegates saying their presence posed security threats across borders. Echoing this concern, Estonia’s representative added his own, about reports that Eritrean soldiers were violating human rights.
Some delegates urged the parties to constructively respond to the African Union’s mediation efforts. Agreeing, Kenya’s representative, speaking also for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, known as the “A3+1”, advocated for the withdrawal of all non-Ethiopian forces from Tigray and the standing down of all militias from neighbouring federal states. He demanded that all parties respect international law including humanitarian principles and the moral codes that are at the core of Africa’s cultures and religions.
Meanwhile, he continued, the Council must take “careful and responsible actions” to encourage humanitarian outreach, and must allow Africa the space to resolve its challenges. “We suffer the most from our challenges and gain the most from solving them,” he said, cautioning against turning today’s debate into a platform that undermines Ethiopia. “Now is the time for careful diplomacy.”
The representative of the United States, noting that the Council has privately discussed the situation in Tigray six times, said that Ethiopia’s Government must show that it intends to use the ceasefire to address the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. The Council can help to turn the ceasefire into a sustainable peace which leads to dialogue, reconciliation and healing. Affirming her delegation’s readiness to help Ethiopia solidify the ceasefire, provide life‑saving aid and resolve the conflict, she invited the Council to follow suit.
The Russian Federation’s representative voiced concern about convening this meeting, which could weaken the position of the Ethiopian authorities. This is an internal matter, he said, adding that the Council’s interference could be counterproductive.
Similarly, Ethiopia’s representative expressed surprise at the convening of this meeting, as his country is undergoing a significant transformation that requires a delicate and context-aware handling of its domestic affairs. Emphasizing that the Government is taking bold steps to meet the needs and well‑being of those people affected by the law enforcement operation in Tigray, he said the ceasefire aims at, among other things, creating an environment conducive for humanitarian assistance and for paving the way towards national dialogue.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, China, India, Viet Nam, Norway and France.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:45 p.m.