UN chief says Abiy in Ethiopia does not accept deportation of his staff
NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday that the world organization does not accept Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven top officials from the UN as famine threatens war-torn region of Tigray.
Ethiopia declared 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 staff at the global body. Haq said those responsible remained in the country.
In a note to the Ethiopian mission to the United Nations in New York, seen by Reuters, the UN Office of Legal Affairs said it had not received any information to support Ethiopia’s accusation that those in charge meddle in internal affairs.
The Ethiopian foreign ministry on Friday accused UN officials of diverting aid and communication material to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF), of violating security provisions, of ” failing to demand the return of aid trucks deployed in Tigray and spreading disinformation.
War erupted 11 months ago between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF, which controls Tigray. Thousands of people have died and over 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Guterres told the UN Security Council on Friday – in a letter viewed by Reuters – that the UN would push Ethiopia “to allow these essential UN personnel to resume their duties in Ethiopia and grant them the visas required “.
The Ethiopian mission to the United Nations in New York told Reuters: “We urge the United Nations to replace expelled personnel quickly to allow our continued cooperation in the provision of humanitarian aid.”
The mission said Ethiopia would work with UN officials to “facilitate the rapid deployment of new personnel.”
TALKING ABOUT THE SECURITY COUNCIL
The United States, Britain, Ireland, Estonia, Norway and France raised the issue in a closed-door Security Council meeting on Friday, but diplomats say strong action – like sanctions – is unlikely as Russia and China have made it clear that they believe the Tigray conflict is an internal affair for Ethiopia.
Some diplomats and officials have expressed concern that the government may be planning other measures.
“As a major new military offensive looms, this appears to be Ethiopia’s attempt to test whether the international community is ready to respond with more than words to an unfolding famine,” a senior told Reuters. Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Norwegian Ambassador to the UN Mona Juul called Ethiopia’s decision to expel UN staff “totally unacceptable”, insisting that the government reconsider the decision, while Ambassador Irishwoman at the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said: “We are concerned that this could be a precursor to other activities”.
The United States condemned the deportations and warned that it would not hesitate to use unilateral sanctions against those who obstruct humanitarian efforts.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths warned Tuesday that a “de facto” aid blockade had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray to starve. Ethiopia has previously denied the blocking of food aid. Read more
“At least 400,000 people live in conditions bordering on famine. Reported levels of child malnutrition are now at the same level as at the start of the famine in Somalia in 2011. To date, the flow of humanitarian supplies to meet these needs remains well below what is needed, “Guterres wrote. at the Security Council on Friday.
Some 5.2 million people are in need of assistance in Tigray, according to the United Nations, and Guterres said the spill-over of conflict in neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar is also fueling an increase in displacement and people in the need.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson
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