The European Union has joined the US in calling for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from neighbouring Ethiopia’s Tigray State – the presence of whom, it said, was fuelling that the conflict in the state.
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously rejected accusations of Eritrean presence in Tigray but their denial has sometimes been contradicted by remarks from officials within the Ethiopian government.
In its statement, the EU said it remained “very concerned by the tragic humanitarian crisis unfolding” in Tigray and urged Ethiopia to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access as well as protection of civilians and refugees.
In response Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel called the statement “appalling for the fundamental issues that it glossed over”.
Refugee camps destroyed
The Norwegian Refugee Council said that buildings and facilities it had set up to provide services within the Hitsaats camp have been burned down. Satellite imagery indicates the damage occurred within 5 and 8 January, the council said.
The camp – together with the Shimelba camp – was home to more than 20,000 Eritrean refugees but it is now inaccessible. Ethiopia’s refugee agency had earlier said that “sporadic shootings” and “remnants of the TPLF fighting in guerrilla tactics” have made it difficult to reach the two camps.
Fighting broke out between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the federal government in November last year.
Services are slowly returning to the state. The state owned telecom provider Ethio Telecom said that it has restored mobile and landline phone service to the more than 300 sites within the state.
Meanwhile 25 UN staff members have been allowed to Tigray by the government as 60 more aid workers are awaiting approval.