EXCLUSIVE by Addis Standard Staffs
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has dropped issuing a resolution calling for cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian laws in Ethiopia’s war- torn Tigray regional state after a second attempt has failed to produce consensus among members states.
On March 04, the council held a closed door meeting after Ireland requested the meeting under Any other Business (AoB). The request came a day after US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is also the current President of the Council for the month of March, introduced the Council’s program of work for the month of March. The program included an open debate on hunger focusing on Ethiopia and Yemen, which is scheduled to take place on March 11.
Ireland’s request was therefore for a separate discussion on March 04. “Our motivation in raising Tigray at the UNSC is the immediate need for humanitarian access & response, given the urgent needs across the region. Commitments by Ethiopia to provide unfettered access to humanitarian actors are welcome and must be implemented now,” the Irish mission to the UN said.
However,unlike the previous three discussions focusing on the crisis in Tigray and held under AoB on November 24 and December 14, 2020, and February 02/2021, member states, including the U.S., U.K. and France from the P5 and Niger, Tunisia and Kenya, the three African non-permanent member states, have all agreed on a resolution calling for cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian laws in the ongoing war in Tigray. They have also agreed to receive a briefing from Mark Lowcock, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation on the ground.
“IT IS NOW ABUNDANTLY CLEAR TO ALL, AND OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGED BY OFFICIALS OF THE GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION IN TIGRAY, [THAT] THE ERITREAN DEFENSE FORCES ARE OPERATING THROUGHOUT TIGRAY.”MARK LOWCOCK
According to a document of his briefing obtained by Addis Standard, Mr. Lowcock told the Council that “it is now abundantly clear to all, and openly acknowledged by officials of the Government administration in Tigray, [that] the Eritrean Defense forces are operating throughout Tigray.” He also said that countless well corroborated reports suggest Eritrean forces’ “culpability for atrocities” and joined the growing calls from countries including the US and the UK in asking that the “Eritrean Defense forces must leave Ethiopia, and they must not be enabled or permitted to continue their campaign of destruction before they do so.” Mr. Lowcock further told the Council members that the “only way through this conflict is dialogue. So I reiterate the Secretary-General’s calls for a dialogue process between all parties towards peace and called on all parties to the conflict, including “the Ethiopian Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, and ethnic militia from parts of Ethiopia beyond Tigray – must understand that they have [an] obligation under international humanitarian law to grant humanitarian access to people who need assistance, whenever they may be. It is a violation of humanitarian law to prevent humanitarian assistance reaching civilians in need.”
Before he concluded his briefing he cautioned the Council that he sees “warning signs in other regions in Ethiopia, including a build-up on the Ethiopian-Sudan border, [and] worsening ethnic conflict in the Benishagul-Gumuz, from where refugees are fleeing to Sudan.”
In the closed door discussion that ensued, three of the five permanent member states have agreed on the need for the Council’s role to end the conflict. Accordingly, the U.S. took a stand that the crisis in Tigray should no longer be discussed at the Council’s AoB, but brought to the regular UNSC agenda. Similarly, the U.K. argued that the Council should play a more active role in ending the crisis, which it said has escalated due to absence of a unified political will. France on its part said the crisis in Tigray was no longer confined in the region but a threat global peace and security.
A draft resolution circulated among member states and viewed by Addis Standard states that “the members of the Council called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and reaffirmed their strong commitment to sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Ethiopia.”
CHINA, RUSSIA AND INDIA TOOK OUT THE COUNCIL’S CALL FOR “IMMEDIATE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES,” FROM THE DRAFT, EVEN AFTER IT WAS MODIFIED WITH “AN END TO VIOLENCE IN TIGRAY”
But China, Russia and India took out the Council’s call for “immediate cessation of hostilities,” from the draft, even after it was modified with “an end to violence in Tigray” arguing that it interferes in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, which led to deadlock in the first day of the meeting. In a twitter post on the same day, Russia’s Foreign ministry has called on the State Department “to stop trying to interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs not just in word but in deed. Without considering and respecting its partners’ interests, these noble causes will remain simple declarations.”
According to well placed diplomatic source who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity, after the first day deadlock, the meeting was then referred to a technical level meeting, below the Permanent Representatives, in a second attempt to secure a common statement after the representatives of the three countries – China, Russia and India – said they would like to first consult with their respective governments.
It’s in the wake of the first day deadlock that individual member states issued their stand separately, with the strongest one coming from Ambassador Greenfield in which she repeated the US’ earlier call for “the Ethiopian government to support an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray…” and for “the prompt withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray” as “essential steps.”
“And we urge the broader region to work fast and together towards a peaceful solution. For our part, the United states is committed to working bilaterally and multi laterally to help secure and end to the violence. We are committed to holding the perpetrators of abuses and violations on all sides to account. And we are committed to addressing and assisting with the humanitarian and human rights crisis,” Ambassador Greenfield said.
The technical level discussion has continued through March 05. But after their initial objection to both the “immediate cessation of hostilities,” and its modified version “an end to violence in Tigray” on grounds of not interfering in Ethiopia’s “internal affairs”, China, Russia and India, came up with additional objection to the Council’s draft statement, which also called for the “need for all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including those related to the protection of civilians and protection against sexual and gender-based violence.”
It was the final act which led to the Security Council to drop its attempt to issue a resolution, diplomatic sources told Addis Standard. The focus on the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is now shifted to the upcoming March 11 open debate, which was added in the monthly agenda of the Council under the presidency of Ambassador Greenfield.