After objections from India, Russia, and particularly China, an effort to get U.N. Security Council approval for a statement calling for an end to violence in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and highlighting the millions in need of humanitarian assistance was dropped Friday night, according to U.N. diplomats.
Following opposition from the three nations, Ireland, which drafted the declaration, agreed not to press for approval, according to three council diplomats.
The UN’s most influential body would have made the first public comment on the Tigray issue, which is now in its fourth month. Fears are rising about the fate of Tigray’s 6 million citizens as fierce fighting continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once controlled Ethiopia’s government. Thousands of people have been killed, but no one knows how many.
On Tuesday, United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned of a “campaign of devastation,” claiming that at least 4.5 million people need assistance and demanding that Eritrean forces accused of atrocities in Tigray leave Ethiopia.
External powers and sanctions were not included in the proposed declaration, but it did call for an end to violence in Tigray.
The draft statement also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Tigray, “where millions of people continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance,” as well as the difficulty in gaining access for aid workers. It called for the Ethiopian government’s statements on Feb. 26 and March 3 committing to “unfettered access” to be “fully and promptly implemented.”
China wanted the statement to concentrate solely on the humanitarian situation, with no mention of the violence in Tigray, according to Council diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity because consultations were private. According to the diplomats, India only wanted a small adjustment, and Russia officially backed its ally China at the last minute.
The Associated Press and then Amnesty International published accounts detailing the killing of several hundred civilians by Eritrean soldiers in the holy city of Axum in Tigray. After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted elections in Tigray, both the federal government and regional officials claim the other’s governments are unconstitutional.
On Friday, Human Rights Watch repeated the news, claiming that in November 2020, Eritrean armed forces “massacred dozens of civilians, including children as young as 13,” in the historic town of Axum in Tigray. It urged the United Nations to set up an impartial investigation into war crimes and alleged crimes against humanity in Tigray as soon as possible.