UN council calls for more aid to reach Tigray

China and Russia sign UN Security Council’s first statement on northern Ethiopian crisis

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopians, who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carry their belongings after crossing the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in the eastern Kassala state, Sudan December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
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The UN Security Council on Thursday issued a statement calling for more aid to reach those affected by the crisis in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region and for investigations into mass rape and other human rights abuses there.

The statement achieved a consensus and was the 15-nation council’s first public comments since Tigray's crisis erupted in November.

Permanent members Russia and China had resisted council attention on what they considered to be an internal matter for Ethiopia.

The council called "for a scaled-up humanitarian response and unfettered humanitarian access to all people in need” in Tigray, where 4.5 million people of about six million rely on aid.

Members also expressed “deep concern about allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls … and called for investigations to find those responsible and bring them to justice”.

Ireland’s ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said she was grateful the council had broken its silence by speaking “with one voice” on Tigray.

Ethiopia's federal army removed the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), from the capital Mekelle in November, sparking violence involving Ethiopian troops and militias, and troops from neighbouring Eritrea.

Fighting in Tigray has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

More than 60,000 refugees have crossed the border into neighbouring Sudan.

Eritrea on Friday made its first admission of its role in the fighting in Tigray and pledged to pull out its forces amid mounting international pressure.

The US and UN have demanded Eritrea withdraw its forces from the region without delay.