UN chief tells Ethiopia’s Abiy he will not accept staff evictions

The United Nations accepts Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven senior UN officials As famine looms in the war-torn region of Tigray, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday.

Ethiopia declared the officials personae non grata on Thursday and gave them 72 hours to leave, but UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the doctrine cannot be applied to world organization personnel. Haq said the officials remained in the country.

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In a note to Ethiopia’s mission to the United Nations in New York, seen by Reuters, the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs said it had received no information to support Ethiopia’s accusation that the officials were meddling in internal affairs.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry later on Friday accused UN officials of diverting relief and communications equipment to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), violating security regulations, not demanding the return of relief trucks that had gone to Tigray. and spreading misinformation.

Eleven months ago, war broke out between Ethiopia’s federal forces and troops loyal to the TPLF, which controls Tigray. Thousands have died and more than 2 million have been forced to flee their homes.

Guterres told the UN Security Council on Friday — in a letter seen by Reuters — that the United Nations would urge Ethiopia “to allow these critical UN staff to resume their functions in Ethiopia and to grant them necessary visas.”

Ethiopia’s mission to the United Nations in New York told Reuters: “We urge the UN to quickly replace the displaced personnel to allow for the continuation of our cooperation in providing humanitarian aid.”

The mission said Ethiopia would work with UN officials to “facilitate the early deployment of the new personnel.”

Security Council talks

The United States, Britain, Ireland, Estonia, Norway and France discussed the evictions in a closed-door Security Council meeting on Friday, but diplomats say strong action – such as sanctions – is unlikely as Russia and China have made it clear that they believe the Tigray conflict is an internal matter for Ethiopia.

“There is a need for more information about this incident. We support the UN and Ethiopia to resolve this issue through dialogue and support the two sides to continue working together,” a spokesman for China’s UN mission in New York told Reuters.

Some diplomats and officials expressed concern that the government may be planning further action.

“As a major new military offensive looms, this appears to be Ethiopia’s effort to test the international community’s readiness to respond with more than words to an unfolding famine,” a senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Norwegian UN Ambassador Mona Juul described Ethiopia’s move to expel UN personnel as “completely unacceptable”, while Irish UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said: “We are concerned it foreshadows other activities.”

The United States has condemned the evictions and warned that it would not hesitate to impose unilateral sanctions against those hindering humanitarian efforts.

UN Assistant Chief Martin Griffiths warned Tuesday that a “de facto” aid blockade had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray into starvation. Ethiopia has previously denied blocking food aid.

“At least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions. Levels of reported child malnutrition are now at the same level as at the start of the Somali famine in 2011. To date, the flow of humanitarian supplies to meet these needs remains well below what is needed,” Guterres wrote to the newspaper on Friday. Security Council.

About 5.2 million people are in need of assistance in Tigray, the United Nations says, and Guterres said the spillover of the conflict into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar has also led to an increase in displacement and people in need.

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