The European Union has suspended budget support for Ethiopia worth 88 million euros ($107 million) until humanitarian agencies are granted access to people in need of aid in the northern Tigray region, Reuters informed.
In a blog post published on Friday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now needed to live up to the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2019 by doing all it takes to end the conflict in Tigray.
“We are ready to help, but unless there is access for humanitarian aid operators, the EU cannot disburse the planned budget support to the Ethiopian government,” Borrell said.
In December, the government’s task force for Tigray said it had reached a deal with the United Nations in which Addis Ababa would call the shots on access for aid agencies.
Conflict erupted in Tigray on Nov. 4 between Ethiopian federal forces and the party ruling the northern region. Thousands have been killed, millions displaced and more than 50,000 refugees have fled to Sudan.
Abiy’s government declared victory over the rebellious leaders in at the end of November but they vowed to fight on. The United Nations has said there are reports fighting is still going on in various parts of Tigray.
Reuters reported in December that the EU was delaying budget support to Ethiopia over the Tigray crisis, according to internal documents.
Borrell said the Tigray conflict had become far more than an internal “law and order” operation and was now a direct threat to the stability of the whole region.
“We receive consistent reports of ethnic-targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forceful returns of refugees and possible war crimes,” he said.
Reuters was unable to independently verify events in Tigray as the government is restricting journalists’ access.
“Moreover, there are regional spill-over effects of the conflict, with for instance Eritrean troops being involved in the military operations in Tigray and with Ethiopian troops being withdrawn from Somalia,” Borrell said.