The European Union accused Eritrean troops of fueling the months-long conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and echoed a U.S. call for their withdrawal.
The presence of Eritrean forces is “exacerbating ethnic violence” in Tigray, the EU said in a statement Monday. Eritrea rejects the accusation and said the EU statement was “appalling,” according to comments posted by Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel on Twitter on Tuesday.
“The EU statement laments the ‘exacerbation of ethnic violence’ while conveniently forgetting the toxic policy of institutionalized ethnicity and polarization that the now defunct Tigray People’s Liberation Front clique pursued for decades,” Yemane said.
The U.S. said last month there were “credible reports” of Eritrean involvement in the violence in Tigray, which began on Nov. 4 when Ethiopian federal troops declared war on forces loyal to the dissident TPLF. The governments of both Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously denied Eritrean troops are involved in the fighting.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, didn’t respond to a requests for comment sent by text message.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who has been nominated as a special envoy to the region by EU member states, is scheduled to meet Abiy on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss the crisis.
In December, the EU suspended almost 90 million euros ($109 million) of budgetary aid to Ethiopia because of the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed thousands of people, displaced about 2.2 million others and destroyed 80% of the region’s health centers.