The U.N. secretary-general said Thursday that there is "no military solution" to Ethiopia's 10-month-old conflict, and he urged the parties to stop fighting and open a dialogue.
"In every sense, the future of Ethiopia is at stake," Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Last week, in a bid to end the conflict, the U.N. chief appealed for a cease-fire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps are essential to preserve Ethiopia's unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis.
"I believe there is an opportunity to address the conflict peacefully, which the parties must seize in the interest of Ethiopia," he told the council. "Conditions must be created for the start of an inclusive national political dialogue to address the underlying causes of the conflict and ensure Ethiopian voices direct the pathway to peace."
He said that he has been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and has received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal.
"The U.N. is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue," he said.
Fighting after cease-fire
On June 28, the Ethiopian government announced an immediate and unilateral humanitarian cease-fire after nearly eight months of fighting with Tigrayan forces. But hostilities have continued, and the prime minister recently urged all Ethiopians to join the fight.
Tigray forces reclaimed control of the regional capital, Mekelle, after Ethiopian government forces withdrew. In the weeks since the cease-fire was announced, they have expanded their presence into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, where fighting has escalated, displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
Guterres also urged the Security Council to stay united and continue to pay attention to the situation.
Council members welcomed Thursday's announcement by the chairperson of the African Union Commission, appointing former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as high representative for the Horn of Africa region.
Thursday was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.
"Time is of the essence," Irish envoy Geraldine Byrne Nason said. "The very lives of the Ethiopian people are at stake. Now is the time for action."
Of the 6 million people who live in Tigray, 5.2 million need some level of food assistance, the U.N. says. Over 400,000 people are already living in faminelike conditions, and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine.
"Let's be clear: This shortage is not because food is unavailable; it is because the Ethiopian government is still limiting humanitarian aid and personnel, including land convoys and air access," said Richard Mills, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N.
"We are troubled by disturbing reports that the Ethiopian government is intentionally withholding humanitarian assistance to starving Ethiopians, and these impediments to the movement of humanitarian supplies must be removed immediately, and trucks must be allowed to enter and deliver lifesaving assistance to Tigray," he said.
Ethiopian envoy Taye Atske Selassie Amde dismissed accusations that the government is impeding aid deliveries, saying it is well aware of its obligations and is facilitating deliveries.