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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on Ethiopia

 Thank you very much Mr. President,

 And I want to start by thanking Under Secretary-General Di Carlo and, in particular you, High Representative Obasanjo, for your really important briefings. In the context of what we have just heard, and the excellent work that the High Representative is already doing, despite the uncertainties we heard from USG Di Carlo, we want to believe that we may just be starting to see possible pathways emerge for an end to the crisis. We certainly share the view that we dare not miss the window of opportunity for peace.

 That is why, when I consider this conflict, my abiding feelings are shame and frustration. Shame because as a council, we around this table have stood by as this crisis has intensified over the past year, causing immeasurable suffering for millions of Ethiopians. Frustration, because the Council’s voice matters on this issue, and it has the power to deliver change. We remained silent for too long.

 But today, I want to commend our African colleagues, with whom we worked to gain agreement - at last - on a Council Statement last Friday. A Council statement that calls squarely for an immediate ceasefire.

That African leadership in New York is also manifest at African Union headquarters, where we saw the AU PSC meet just today. And importantly also on the ground, where it matters most to the people of Ethiopia.

We depend on Regional leaders, in particular, on you, High Representative Obasanjo. We rely on regional organisations, including IGAD, which have a crucial role to play in engaging with all sides, supporting mediation efforts and ultimately assisting Ethiopia to find a solution to this crisis. We welcome the efforts that are taking place as we speak. We call on everyone in Ethiopia to embrace this opportunity. Time is of the essence. Your people are putting their faith in you. For the good of your country, the fighting needs to stop.  The talking needs to start.

We are one year on from the beginning of this crisis. Today, we must ask ourselves if we, as this Council, have done enough to prevent catastrophe. A catastrophe that is causing untold harm to the people of Ethiopia. As each month passes, we have seen the situation deteriorate. For the ordinary people of Ethiopia, their futures are being stripped away.

As we heard last week from the OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, there have been shocking human rights abuses committed during this conflict. Women, men and children have been raped in horrific fashion, and let me be clear civilians have borne the brunt of the violence. International humanitarian law and human rights norms have been cast aside. Meanwhile vital lifesaving aid has been blocked from reaching starving and sick people.

In recent days, the situation has become even more grave. Humanitarian operations across northern Ethiopia have effectively ground to a halt. Military operations have escalated. A state of emergency has been declared, suspending the basic rights of Ethiopian citizens. More people have been displaced, lives and livelihoods have been lost. We have also witnessed increasingly shocking incidences of hate speech and dehumanising language that risk inciting the worst type of violence against individuals or groups within Ethiopian society. We simply cannot standby and allow this to continue. Too many lives are at stake. Meanwhile continued military actions and mobilisation now threaten the very stability and territorial integrity, which are vital for Ethiopia and for the region.

Today our messages are to all parties.  Today our messages are clear and simple:

  • First, it’s paramount that all parties must immediately facilitate the provision of life-saving humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it, in line with International Humanitarian Law;

  • Second, we need an immediate end to the fighting – civilians must be protected;

  • Third, we need all parties to the conflict to embrace negotiations towards a lasting political solution;

  • Fourth, the chilling hate speech, dehumanising language and incitement to violence must end, accountability is imperative.

  • Fifth, we need an inclusive and Ethiopian-led national dialogue that includes all regions and stakeholders.

We cannot wait any longer to act on these five important steps.

Mr President

Ethiopia has been an inspiring example of peace and stability in Africa. Ireland’s relationship with Ethiopia is one of our oldest and closest on the African continent. We remain deeply committed to supporting Ethiopia and its people. It is also shocking and tragic that the entire country now risks being over-run by violence and conflict. This unnecessary war must end now. All sides in Ethiopia must turn the tide towards peace and now steer the country back to where the people of Ethiopia deserve to be, on a hopeful pathway to peace.

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