Combating in Ethiopia’s Tigray area is “dire”, with ongoing ethnic cleaning and sexual violence, Finnish international minister Pekka Haavisto has mentioned, after getting back from his second journey to the Horn of Africa.
“The safety scenario in Tigray stays dire and energetic hostilities and preventing have been reported in varied areas,” Haavisto advised EUobserver on Tuesday (20 April).
“The rising variety of … individuals who’ve been forcefully displaced from western Tigray is alarming and the displacement is primarily going down on ethnic grounds,” he mentioned.
“Sexual and gender-based violence has additionally been used systematically,” he added.
The minister spoke after visiting Ethiopia and neighbouring international locations between 3 and 10 April in his second fact-finding mission there as an EU particular envoy.
The primary time he went, in February, he centered on interesting to authorities in Addis Ababa to let worldwide displays and assist employees into Tigray.
However this time, Haavisto additionally travelled to Tigrayan capital-city Mekele, the place he visited an area hospital and refugee camp and spoke to victims of violence face-to-face.
Entry for assist employees had “improved” over the previous two months, he famous.
“Nonetheless, the humanitarian scenario stays very tough, with rising wants,” he mentioned.
“The unstable scenario and preventing on the bottom proceed to limit the humanitarian response. There stays a powerful want to induce all events about the necessity to respect worldwide humanitarian legislation and worldwide refugee legislation,” he mentioned.
The Ethiopian authorities, which had beforehand denied stories of large-scale preventing and of ravenous folks in Tigray, was additionally extra open to speak, Haavisto added.
“The discussions, additionally on delicate points, have been constructive. All interlocutors expressed a willingness to proceed their dialogue with the EU,” the Finnish prime diplomat mentioned, after assembly Ethiopian president Sahle-Work Zewde and deputy prime minister and international minister Demeke Mekonnen.
However the conflict nonetheless threatened to destabilise Ethiopia and create a brand new “migration disaster”, which may see elevated numbers of individuals fleeing and shifting onward to Europe, Haavisto advised this web site.
“The scenario in Tigray and neighbouring areas stays a serious concern to stability for Ethiopia and there’s a danger of an advanced and protracted disaster resulting in a humanitarian catastrophe,” he mentioned.
“As a result of battle, there are each IDPs [internally displaced persons] and refugees in neighbouring international locations. It’s essential to stop a potential migration disaster on the outset,” he added.
Haavisto spoke to EUobserver after briefing EU international ministers in a video-conference on Monday.
And his feedback have been echoed by EU international affairs chief Josep Borrell, who advised press in Brussels that Eritrean forces have been additionally nonetheless preventing in Tigray, regardless that Eritrea and Ethiopia had, up to now, denied they have been there.
Ethiopia is planning to carry elections in August.
And Haavisto mentioned “political options” to the battle, which started final November, after native powers in Tigray defied Addis Ababa’s federal authority.
Borrell mentioned the EU needed to ship an election-observation mission, if safety situations allowed.
However the vote needs to be preceded by a “nationwide dialogue” on the conflict, Borrell mentioned, including that, even within the best-case situation, no elections may happen in Tigray as a result of quantity of harm there.
The EU has already withheld budgetary assist to Ethiopia over its conduct within the civil conflict.
It has additionally threatened to impose visa-bans and asset-freezes on Ethiopian officers in the event that they blocked entry to UN employees bringing meals and medical provides.