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UN chief calls for 'unconditional and immediate' Ethiopian ceasefire

Ethiopia has expelled four Irish diplomats due to Ireland’s stance on the ongoing conflict in the country.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

UN CHIEF ANTONIO Guterres called for an “unconditional and immediate” ceasefire in Ethiopia, where government forces are battling rebels from the northern Tigray region.

“The peace process in Colombia inspires me to make an urgent appeal today to the protagonists of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire to save the country,” Guterres said in Bogota during a visit to the South American country marking five years since a peace deal was signed.

International alarm has mounted over the escalating year-long conflict in Ethiopia, prompting foreign governments to tell their citizens to leave amid fears the Tigrayan rebels could march on the capital Addis Ababa.

Guterres said a ceasefire should “allow for an inter-Ethiopian dialogue to resolve the crisis and allow Ethiopia to contribute again to the stability of the region.”

The fighting in the north of Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

Foreign envoys have been frantically pushing for a ceasefire, though there have been few signs a breakthrough is coming.

It was revealed yesterday that the Ethiopian government informed Ireland’s embassy in Addis Ababa earlier this week that four of the six Irish diplomats stationed there must leave the country within the week.

Ireland’s ambassador and one other diplomat have been permitted to stay.

According to a statement from the Department, Ethiopian authorities indicated that the decision was due to Ireland’s position on the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, articulated at the UN Security Council. 

The Irish embassy in Addis Ababa remains open, and its focus will be “the provision of consular services, although the reduction of our diplomatic staff numbers by two thirds will inevitably affect our ability to fully provide such services,” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said in the statement from the Department. 

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Speaking to RTÉ news this afternoon, Coveney said that “for many months now … Ireland has been shining a spotlight on things that have been happening in Ethiopia that really are breaches of international law.” 

He added that Ireland has led many of the political debates within the Security Council on the need for the UN to intervene, and to expose human rights abuses that have been happening there. “In particular, the use of sexual violence as a tool of conflict — which is essentially mass rape,” he said.

“We really are at the edge of a very, very dangerous situation, not only for Ethiopians, but also for their neighbors,” Coveney said, adding that Ireland has been and continues to be extremely vocal of this issue.

“Unfortunately, the Ethiopian government has taken that as Ireland speaking against them, that is not what we have been doing,” he said.

© AFP 2021

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