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Tigray Defense Force fighters march south of the Ethiopian city of Mekelle in the country's Tigray region, June 23, 2021.

FINBARR O'REILLY/The New York Times News Service

The UN rights council on Tuesday approved a resolution expressing deep concern about abuses in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray and calling for the swift withdrawal of Eritrean troops, which it said were “exacerbating the conflict.”

Clashes erupted in Tigray eight months ago between central government forces and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The conflict has forced nearly two million people to flee their homes and driven around 400,000 people into famine.

“What is happening in the Tigray region in Ethiopia is appalling,” said Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, head of the EU delegation to the United Nations in Geneva that brought the resolution. “It is imperative for the Human Rights Council to be able to address this situation.”

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The EU text passed in a vote with 20 countries in favour, 14 against and 13 abstentions.

Council member Eritrea voted against the resolution. The withdrawal of Eritrean troops, which the country initially denied were present there, is also a key demand of Tigrayan leaders for ceasefire talks. Eritrea denies rights abuses.

Ethiopia’s delegate, who is not currently one of the council’s 47 members, said she categorically rejected the resolution.

“This resolution is a show of disdain for the ongoing joint inquiry with the intent of influencing its conclusion,” said Ambassador Mahlet Hailu Guadey, referring to a probe by the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission with the United Nations on alleged rights violations.

More than a dozen amendments brought by China, Venezuela and Eritrea – including a crucial one that would have removed a reference to Eritrean troops – were all rejected by the council in separate votes.

Chinese delegate Jiang Duan, who voted against the EU resolution, told the council that the resolution had “major defects” and would “further complicate” the situation in Tigray.

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