Delivered by Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management
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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Since the fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, reports of high number casualties, of serious human rights and of serious international humanitarian law violations have been increasing. This is a major concern for the European Union and we are saddened by the tragic loss of lives of Ethiopian people as a result of this conflict. The danger of a major humanitarian crisis is imminent and an immediate de-escalation is needed.
All parties should show restraint and reinforce their calls to avoid incitement to hatred and violence. As Commissioner in charge of humanitarian affairs, I have been following closely the situation on the ground. I have been in touch with Mark Lowcock, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, with Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as with International Non-Governmental Organisations.
In the past few days we have already allocated an initial €4 million to accommodate the most urgent humanitarian needs of Ethiopian refugees who fled the conflict to neighbouring Sudan. Sudan is already hosting a substantial number of refugees and internally displaced persons, and it is facing a considerable challenge with any new influx of people in need. I will visit Sudan next week to show solidarity with the Sudanese government that supports the Ethiopian refugees and to meet refugees themselves.
As High Representative [Josep] Borrell recalled at his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister [and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Mr Demeke] Mekonnen on Tuesday, the principles of international humanitarian law must be respected. In the conduct of hostilities, civilians and non-civilians have to be distinguished. Targeting civilians should be avoided at all costs by all sides.
While meeting the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister myself yesterday, I also recalled the obligation of any party in the conflict without distinction to protect civilians and to ensure their safe and free movement. Furthermore, I called for full and unrestricted access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian workers to all areas affected by fighting so that they are able to provide lifesaving assistance.
All partners of Ethiopia, and in particular its neighbors, should contribute to the cessation of hostilities and to the resolution of political disputes through dialogue in the framework of the Constitution of Ethiopia. In that regard, the initiative of the African Union with the appointment of three High-Level Envoys is welcomed and supported by the European Union. Political solutions and the search for dialogue are the only viable option for the future of Ethiopia.
The conflict has further increased ethnic tensions, with reports of ethnically targeted measures and ethnic profiling and discriminations, hate speech and atrocities occurring. Jointly with High Representative Borrell, we expressed our deep concerns regarding these allegations. It is imperative that Human rights are respected and that where abuses have occurred they are investigated and those responsible held accountable.
In conclusion, in line with the messages passed to Deputy Prime Minister Mekonnen, we expect the Ethiopian Government to show restraint, and to avoid further escalation; not to apply ethnic targeted violence or measures – this is a very sensitive issue for the European Union. We hold the Prime Minister to his word that the Government is making a distinction between the Tigrayan people and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. However, we have reports about blanket measures on the basis of ethnicity.
Furthermore we expect the government to allow unimpeded humanitarian access and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians; to ensure free access for media; and finally and very importantly, to look for a political solution, a dialogue, a cessation of hostilities without delay. We encourage them to work with the African Union High Level Envoys in this respect.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-199160