Guterres calls for evidence to justify expulsion of UN officials from Ethiopia

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United Nations (USA): In a rarely spoken move, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday criticized Ethiopia’s explanation for the expulsion of seven United Nations officials, which the United Nations considered a violation of its charter, calling on Addis Ababa to prove in writing their alleged behavior.

The Security Council held an emergency meeting, the second in less than a week, to discuss the Ethiopian expulsion decision, which raised fears of similar behavior in other conflict-ridden regions.

Ethiopian officials participated in the session.

“If there is any written document submitted by the Ethiopian government to any UN institution on any of the seven expelled UN members, I would like to have a copy of that document, as I was not aware of any of them,” Guterres said.

inflated numbers

He explained that he spoke to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday, and asked him twice to send evidence related to the expulsion of officials, adding, “So far, I have not received any response to these requests.”

Prior to Guterres’ speech, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Tai Atke Selassie, addressed the session to justify the expulsion decision, saying that UN officials inflated the numbers of supposed casualties, fabricated deaths due to starvation and invited armed rebels to UN-protected compounds.

Pointing to “multiple abuses,” he said that UN staff “should not seek or accept instructions” from outside the organization, nor should they share any information they “know because of their official position.”

He added that they should “not use their positions or the knowledge gained from their official duties for private purposes … or for the private gain of any third party.”

He then promised that his government would provide Guterres with written documents.

Guterres also warned that Ethiopia is experiencing a “massive humanitarian crisis that requires immediate attention.”

The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine-like conditions in northern Ethiopia due to the conflict.

Last year, tension between the prime minister and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front escalated into an armed conflict.

“This makes the announcement made by the government last Thursday regarding the expulsion of seven UN officials, the majority of whom work in humanitarian affairs, very worrying,” Guterres said, criticizing the “unprecedented” Ethiopian decision as a violation of the United Nations Charter.

Guterres, who previously declared five million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, urged the Ethiopian authorities to allow humanitarian access “unimpeded, and to facilitate and enable our work with the urgency that this situation requires.”

Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, considered the expulsion “an insult to this council, the United Nations, all member states and our common humanitarian principles,” stressing that the United Nations must be “impartial” and that the Ethiopian decision has “no justification.”

She warned that unless the request for humanitarian access was met, the Security Council would have to act, including by a legally binding resolution.

However, her Chinese counterpart, Zhang Jun, urged the international community to respect Ethiopia’s sovereignty. In a similar situation, the Russian ambassador, Anna Evstegneva, said that Ethiopia is capable of solving its problems on its own.

The Security Council session was held behind closed doors to discuss the expulsion of officials accused of “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs and political manipulation of humanitarian aid.

The United Nations believes that declaring its officials “persona non grata” is illegal and violates several provisions of the United Nations Charter.

On Friday, the Security Council did not agree to a statement proposed by Ireland due to opposition from China and Russia.

“We must move to political negotiations,” an ambassador told AFP, asking not to be identified.

And the decision to expel officials caused a shock within the organization because of its lack of occurrence.

Another diplomat said that the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths indicated Friday that the matter was based on “false allegations” against him, after it was said that what was behind the crisis may be his statements in which he talked about “blocking” humanitarian access and increasing the risk of starvation. But when Griffiths was asked about the allegations, he “was unable to identify them”.

He added that the expulsion decision by Ethiopia could set a dangerous precedent in other conflicts such as Burma or Afghanistan.

“Because if we do not clarify the situation in Ethiopia, it may have a contagious effect,” he added.

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