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FALMOUTH, England – As G7 leaders prepared to reprimand the Ethiopian government for handling a military conflict in the Tigray area, the country’s foreign minister landed a pre-emptive strike on Saturday.
The minister Demeke Mekonnen accused the group of rich countries “a condescending attitude” and called on them to “refrain from these unhelpful activities”.
G7 Sherpas negotiated a final communiqué on Saturday with a draft language stating that heads of state or government were “concerned about the ongoing conflict”, called for an “end of hostilities” and called for a “comprehensive and credible political process”, such an official familiar with the discussions who warned that the statement was not yet finalized.
The concern of the world’s richest and most powerful democracies comes shortly after United Nations chief humanitarian officer Mark Lowcock told Reuters that in Tigray, where the Ethiopian military and its allies are located, “food is definitely used as a weapon of war.” Fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
After the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had already denied Lowcock’s allegations, it did not wait for the final version of the G7 statement, which will be released on Sunday.
In a video statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke accused unspecified members of the “international community” of “campaigning” against Ethiopia.
A report by the United Nations-supported Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) earlier this month warned 5.5 million people in the region of “high acute food insecurity,” of which 353,000 are at the highest “disaster risk.” The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the crisis on Tuesday.
Ethiopia also came under fire this week during a meeting between senior US and EU aid officials. “The military allies of the Ethiopian government have burned and looted seeds and agricultural implements and slaughtered oxen to make sure the fields were fallow,” said Samantha Power, administrator for the US Agency for International Development on Thursday.
Demeke said his government’s allegations of using hunger as a weapon of war were “an outrageous lie”.
“Ethiopia stands ready to work positively and constructively with all of its partners to expand humanitarian aid, restore social cohesion and restore basic services in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” said Demeke. “What the country needs at this critical moment is the support of friends and partners.”