Ethiopia: EU calls for “immediate” lifting of restrictions on Tigray

Ethiopia: EU calls for “immediate” lifting of restrictions on Tigray

European Commissioner Janez Lenarcic called on Tuesday (21 June) in Addis Ababa for the Ethiopian government to lift ” without delay “ the restrictions weighing on the Tigray region, in particular on the supply of fuel, the shortage of which is hampering the distribution of humanitarian aid.

In Mekele, the regional capital where he went on Tuesday, Mr. Lenarcic, commissioner in charge of crisis management, noted a “improvement in the delivery of humanitarian aid” to Tigray, where the Ethiopian government authorized at the beginning of April, after a three-month interruption and in the wake of the announcement of a truce, the resumption of transport by road.

But “we must do more”he added : “We are in a situation where the warehouses in Mekele are full (of food) but people in the countryside are still hungry” because the lack of fuel – of which the government allows only a limited quantity to be transported to Tigray – prevents distribution outside the city.

“While we are delighted with the real improvement on the spot, we continue to insist on the additional measures which must be taken and will ultimately allow the total normalization of relations between the EU and Ethiopia, which we wish”did he declare.

The EU suspended in December 2020, a month after the start of the conflict, budgetary aid of 90 million euros to Ethiopia.

“Restrictions must be lifted, especially on the supply of fuel (…) more fuel is needed, because without fuel the food aid that arrives in Mekele cannot reach the rural areas, where it is most needed”and hospitals in the region, deprived of electricity, cannot run their generators.

Electricity, banking services and telecommunications should also “be restored without delay (…) because the absence of these services aggravates the humanitarian situation in the region”he demanded.

“The fear that they will be diverted (for military purposes, editor’s note) must not be an excuse for maintaining the blockade on the supply of fuel or basic services”he said, ensuring that monitoring mechanisms could be put in place.

“I don’t understand the reasoning behind maintaining the blockade on banking services, electricity or telecommunications”particularly since the announcement of the truce, generally respected, he insisted.

The conflict in Tigray began in November 2020 when Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army there to dislodge regional authorities from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – who challenged his authority – accusing regional forces of attacking federal army bases on site.

In mid-June, Mr. Abiy said for the first time that he was open to negotiations with the TPLF, which has resumed since a counter-offensive in 2021 control of most of Tigray.

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