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Ethiopia denies allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in conflict-hit Tigray region

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Ethiopia on Saturday rejected US accusations of ethnic cleansing in the conflict-hit Tigray region as “unfounded and spurious.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an appearance before Congress on Wednesday, said that “acts of ethnic cleansing” had been committed in western Tigray, calling for them to stop and for “full accountability.”

Blinken’s “allegations, in fact, outright accusations of ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans... is a completely unfounded and spurious verdict against the Ethiopian government”, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

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“Nothing during or after the end of the main law enforcement operation in Tigray can be identified or defined by any standards as a targeted, intentional ethnic cleansing against anyone in the region.”

However it added that the Ethiopian government “attaches particular importance to its longstanding and strategic relations with the United States.

“It is committed to work closely with the current US administration in further strengthening and boosting this important bilateral relationship over the coming years.”

A spokesman for Ethiopia’s Amhara region already denied Thursday that its forces were engaged in ethnic cleansing.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military campaign in Tigray in November after blaming the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for attacks on army camps.

Ethiopian Army soldiers stand as a pick-up truck with militia men passes by at Mai Aini Refugee camp, in Ethiopia, on January 30, 2021. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP)
Ethiopian Army soldiers stand as a pick-up truck with militia men passes by at Mai Aini Refugee camp, in Ethiopia, on January 30, 2021. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP)

Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, leaned on forces from Amhara to secure western and southern Tigray once the TPLF retreated from those areas, and Amhara officials set up transitional administrations in multiple cities and towns.

It was a sensitive move, given that many ethnic Amharas believe the once-dominant TPLF illegally incorporated the fertile territories after it came to power in the early 1990s - and that they should fall under Amhara administration.

Blinken’s remarks Wednesday confirmed the substance of a New York Times report last month that said that an internal US government report determined there was “ethnic cleansing” in western Tigray.

The report, according to the newspaper, said entire villages had disappeared in an effort to make western Tigray “ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.”

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