US urges Ethiopia’s PM to allow ‘immediate’ help to Tigray

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call with Ethiopia’s prime minister on Thursday expressed “grave concern” about the crisis in the embattled Tigray region and urged “immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to prevent further loss of life”, a US spokesman said.

There was no immediate comment from Ethiopian officials.

The call is the latest this week that world leaders have held with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia faces growing pressure to open Tigray to journalists, independent investigators and far more humanitarian aid.

The Tigray conflict, which has entered its fourth month, remains largely in the shadows. Thousands of people have been killed as Ethiopian and allied forces fight those of the now-fugitive Tigray government that once dominated the country’s government for nearly three decades. Most of the population of six million need emergency aid.

Abiy also has spoken this week with the French president and German chancellor, whose governments have expressed similar wishes on opening up Tigray.

Starvation has become a major concern in Tigray.

“Many households are expected to have already depleted their food stocks, or are expected to deplete their food stocks in the next two months,” according to a new report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSN), which is funded and managed by the US.

The report posted on Thursday said more parts of central and eastern Tigray likely will enter Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine, in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) humanitarian chief has privately told the UN Security Council that Ethiopia may not have control of up to 40 per cent of the territory in Tigray and does not have full command of forces from neighbouring Eritrea operating there.

Details of the briefing by Mark Lowcock were shared by diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because Wednesday’s meeting was a closed-door one.

Available information indicates that Ethiopia’s government now controls 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the territory in Tigray, Lowcock told diplomats.

And some of the forces that sided with Ethiopian ones earlier in the conflict are reportedly now pursuing their own goals, he said.