UN urges Tigray rebels to 'immediately' endorse ceasefire

Tigray Defence Forces

A soldier of Tigray Defence Force parades on a motor tricycle as he returns to Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 29, 2021. 

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

United Nations, United States

The UN on Friday urged the rebel Tigray Defense Forces group to "immediately and completely" endorse the ceasefire that the Ethiopian government has announced in the war-hit region.

"We urge the TDF to endorse the ceasefire immediately and completely," said UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo.

"A ceasefire observed by all parties would not only facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid but would also be a starting point for the necessary political efforts to chart a way out of the crisis," she said at the opening of a public meeting of the Security Council, the panel's first since November.

 Safe passage

"All parties must ensure the safe passage of humanitarian workers for the continued delivery of supplies," she said, stressing that access to Tigray by air had been cut off.

The meeting had been requested by the United States, Ireland and Britain, and came after tough negotiations with African members of the Security Council who, like Ethiopia, opposed formal discussion of the situation in Tigray.

According to the African members, whose stance is backed by Russia and China, the Tigray conflict is an internal affair of Ethiopia and any international efforts should be made by Africans, for example, through the African Union.

If the Ethiopian government does not provide unhindered movement of humanitarian supplies, commodities, and aid workers into Tigray, hundreds of thousands of people could starve to death.

Ahead of the Council meeting, several non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Oxfam called for the effective application of the ceasefire, with the latter group asking for a study into the possibility of an "air bridge" with Tigray to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to the famine-hit region.

Acting UN aid Chief Ramesh Rajasingham on Friday told the council that the humanitarian situation in Tigray had “worsened dramatically” in recent weeks with an increase of some 50,000 in the number of people now suffering famine.

 “More than 400,000 people are estimated to have crossed the threshold into famine and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. Some are suggesting that the numbers are even higher. 33,000 children are severely malnourished,” he said.