Borrell urges sanctions over Ethiopia crisis

File photo. An Ethiopian refugee woman with her child from Tigray region wait to receive aid at the Um Rakuba refugee camp, the same camp that hosted Ethiopian refugees during the famine in the 1980s, some 80 kilometers from the Ethiopian-Sudan border in Sudan, 1 December 2020. [EPA-EFE/ALA KHEIR]

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday (12 July) urged member states to consider imposing sanctions over the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray, as the bloc looks to increase aid deliveries to the region.

“We should be ready to use restrictive measures where we believe they are justified,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Tigray is plunging towards a cataclysmic humanitarian crisis as a brutal war between the government and rebels from the region has left hundreds of thousands of people facing famine.

More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia's Tigray in famine: UN analysis

More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk, according to an analysis by United Nations agencies and aid groups that blamed conflict for the worst catastrophic food crisis in a decade.

Borrell said the EU wants to see a ceasefire declared by the government implemented on the ground, but warned that Tigray was instead being “cut off from the rest of the world”.

“The situation in the Tigray region has never been as bad,” Borrell said.

“In spite of the ceasefire announced by the government of Ethiopia, what we are seeing in Tigray, what we are afraid Tigray is going to suffer is a serious humanitarian crisis”.

Borrell said that Brussels was now looking to organise an “air bridge” to help bring aid to the region, but conceded it would not reach the vast number of people in need.

Tigray has been the scene of fighting since Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army in early November to topple dissident regional authorities.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner accused them of orchestrating attacks on Ethiopian military bases.

After early successes and a premature declaration of victory, government forces were bogged down in a vicious and months-long battle with the Tigray Defence Forces, or TDF. The Ethiopian army was backed by troops from the neighbouring Amhara region and the army of Eritrea, which borders Tigray.

In late June, the TDF recaptured the capital Mekele, which had held by the Ethiopian army since 28 November.

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