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SC: Tigray / Ethiopia

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Trine Heimerback in the Security Council meeting on the situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, 26 August 2021.

With sadness and disbelief, we are yet again discussing the prospect of a man-made famine in Tigray. The expansion of the armed conflict into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara will only increase the suffering.  The ramifications for the entire country are grave, and potentially undermine regional peace and security in the Horn of Africa. 

President,

Let me thank the Secretary General and USG Griffiths for their briefings. We are grateful for your tireless diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict. We hope to see that your leadership in preventive diplomacy is replicated by other key actors, such as regional institutions.

As we have been told, the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Tigray are massive. To end the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Tigray, some immediate actions are crucial:

First, the federal Ethiopian authorities - and all other actors – must secure rapid, safe, and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the region.

Second, all parties must do their utmost to facilitate the work of humanitarian organisations and their personnel.

And third, all parties must fully respect international humanitarian law and provide security for humanitarian workers.

Repeated assurances from Ethiopian authorities of compliance with its humanitarian obligations have failed to materialize in unimpeded humanitarian access to Tigray.

In reality, Tigray is placed under a blockade / strict closure regime.  The provision of humanitarian aid through land convoys and air access is being obstructed - instead of facilitated. Ethiopia must live up to its humanitarian obligations. We strongly condemn the many vilifying comments made in public regarding humanitarian actors and workers. Such hateful rhetoric is creating more insecurity, and putting the lives of humanitarians at risk.

President,

It is incumbent on all parties to protect the human rights of all people. This includes protection from stigmatization or ethnic profiling. We are deeply concerned by allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses in Tigray and other conflict-affected areas, including against children. Norway condemns in the strongest terms the reported killings of civilians, and the widespread and systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence.

Additionally, the reported systematic destruction of vital infrastructure and health centres is equally unacceptable. These must be rapidly restored.

The alleged atrocities, violations, and abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law must be documented and investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted. Bringing perpetrators to justice is critical for prevention and deterrence. We welcome the joint investigation by OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Independent Commission of Inquiry, into alleged atrocities in Tigray. We expect that all findings are used to ensure accountability. 

Norway will continue to make sure the fight against impunity remains high on the Council’s agenda. President, Norway urges all actors in the conflict to immediately end the violence and enter into dialogue. 

To facilitate this, Eritrea must fully withdraw from Ethiopian territory, Tigrayan forces must end their expansion into neighbouring regions, and Amhara federal forces and militia must withdraw from Western Tigray.

Finally, President,

It is vital that the States in the region, IGAD, and the African Union bring its full weight to end hostilities in Tigray and Ethiopia. And we recognize the efforts thus far by Prime Minister Hamdok, in his capacity as chair of IGAD. Likewise, this Council must lend all possible support to these regional efforts.

We should speak with one voice, calling for cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access, and a peaceful resolution through dialogue. And, the Council should receive regular reporting on humanitarian access to Tigray, including clear indicators of any gaps in the response and assistance needed. 

We cannot allow the humanitarian situation in Tigray to deteriorate even further into catastrophe – or the conflict in Ethiopia to destabilise the Horn of Africa – without pursuing all available avenues towards a political solution. 

Thank you.