In talk with Ethiopia PM, Blinken urges humanitarian access to Tigray

AFP , Wednesday 7 Jul 2021

Blinken also condemned 'the destruction of bridges into Tigray, and other impediments to access,' according to Price

Women, who fled the violence in Ethiopia's Tigray region, stay awake while others sleep in a classroom at May Weyni secondary school, that turned in to a Internal Displaced People (IDP) camp registering 10500 people, in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 22, 2021. AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to the war-torn region of Tigray.

Blinken called for the complete withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray, as well as the "full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a readout of a phone call between Blinken and Ahmed.

Blinken also condemned "the destruction of bridges into Tigray, and other impediments to access," according to Price.

The demand for humanitarian access was among steps, including the establishment of a process to hold accountable the people responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities in Ethiopia, originally outlined by the UN Security Council on July 2.

"The secretary stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire," Price added.

Tigray has been the scene of fighting since Ahmed sent the army in early November to topple dissident regional authorities.

Ethiopian officials have been accused of cutting off the region when they announced a unilateral ceasefire immediately after Tigray Defence Forces recaptured the regional capital Mekele from the Ethiopian army late last month.

"In addition, the secretary emphasized the urgency of holding an inclusive political dialogue to begin the difficult work of forging a lasting resolution to the country's ethnic and political divisions," Price said.

The call came on the day the European Union's humanitarian chief Janez Lenarcic condemned Ethiopian authorities for cutting off the region, saying humanitarian teams and aid were being "prevented from entering Tigray and from delivering much needed assistance."

The Blinken readout made no mention of Ethiopia beginning to fill its controversial mega-dam on the Nile River.

But Price in speaking to reporters acknowledged that Ethiopia's unilateral move "has the potential to raise tensions."

The huge dam, set to be Africa's largest hydroelectric project when completed, has sparked a nearly decade-long diplomatic stand-off between Addis Ababa and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.

Tunisia has submitted to the UN Security Council a draft resolution, obtained by AFP, calling on Ethiopia to cease filling the reservoir, but no date has been set for a vote on the draft.

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