‘No proof of Eritrean troops fighting in Ethiopia’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that there is no proof of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia, where government forces are fighting rebels in the northernmost region of Tigray.

“We have no proof of the presence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. I confronted the (Ethiopian) prime minister with that question, and he guaranteed to me that they have not entered the Tigrayan territory, that the only area where they are is the area that corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that in the peace agreement was decided to give back to Eritrea,” Guterres told reporters.

“So this was the testimony that was given to me by the prime minister when I confronted him exactly with that question.”

There are media reports saying that Eritrean troops have crossed into Ethiopia to help Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Since November 4, the Ethiopian government has been undertaking military operations against the TPLF, which rules Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray state. The federal government’s operations followed the TPLF’s attack on a command base of the Ethiopian Defense Force in Mekelle city, capital of Tigray.

The United Nations has information of sporadic fighting in different areas of Ethiopia. But it also has information that there was in the last few days a progressive increase of security and control, said Guterres. “But again, these are information that I am not in a position to fully confirm.”

On humanitarian access to the Tigray region, Guterres said the United Nations and Ethiopia are in a second agreement, Xinhua reported.

“The only thing I can say is that, after the first agreement that was not possible to implement immediately, we have now a second agreement for joint assessment missions in relation to humanitarian needs between the UN and Ethiopia, to make sure that there is full access to the whole of the territory and full capacity to start humanitarian operations based on real needs and without any kind of discrimination,” said Guterres.

A UN convoy was shot at by Ethiopian troops in Tigray on Sunday, triggering the alarm at the world body. The United Nations has not provided details of the incident.

“The UN has seen the reports of a UN convoy being shot at in Tigray province. These are alarming reports, and we are engaging at the highest level with the federal government to express our concerns and avoid any such incidents in the future,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, on Tuesday.

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