Ireland says Ethiopia ordered expulsion of four Irish diplomats

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The government says the Irish ambassador and another diplomat said they could stay but others had to leave.

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The Irish government has said that Ethiopia has asked four of the six diplomats serving at its embassy in Addis Ababa, Ireland, to leave the country by next week.

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Ireland’s ambassador and another diplomat were told earlier this week they could stay but others had to leave, a statement said on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: “I deeply regret this decision of the Ethiopian government.” He said he hoped the move was temporary.

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Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment.

Coveney defended Ireland’s stance on the ongoing conflict between the government and Tigrayan forces, saying it was in line with other bodies, including the European Union.

Ireland was a signatory to a United Nations Security Council statement on 5 November that called for a ceasefire as fighting escalated in the country’s north.

The Irish government said it echoed calls from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the need for full humanitarian access, an end to fighting and political dialogue.

The Irish embassy in Addis Ababa has not been closed and the remaining two diplomats continued to work with bodies including the African Union.

“Ireland fully supports the role of the African Union in seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict, including through the work of its special envoy, former Nigerian President Olesgun Obasanjo,” Coveney said. “We are committed to Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The announcement comes less than two months after the Ethiopian government ordered seven senior UN officials to leave Ethiopia, accusing them of “interfering” in internal affairs.

Seven officials, including individuals from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), were declared “personalities non greta” and given 72 hours to leave the country.

Fighting has been going on in Ethiopia’s northern Tigre region since November 2020 between federal forces and those allied with them.

In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to the Tigre after months of tension with the governing party of the Northern Territory to oust the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated national politics for three decades.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate had promised a speedy victory, but by the end of June Tigrean forces had regrouped and retaken most of Tigre, including its capital, Mekele.

Since then, Tigrian forces have pushed into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions and this week claimed control of Shewa Robit, 220 km (135 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa, by road. Tigris forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital, Addis Ababa. They are also fighting to try to cut a transport corridor connecting land-locked Ethiopia with the region’s main port, Djibouti.

Ethiopian state media reported on Wednesday that Abiy had gone to the front lines to personally direct the war effort.

Abi said in a Twitter post late Monday, “The time has come to lead the country with sacrifices.” “Those who want to be among the children of Ethiopia who will be admired in history, stand up for their country today. See you on the battlefield.”

Thousands have died in brutal conflict marked by gang rape, mass expulsion and destruction of medical centers.

The prospect of the country’s separation has worried both Ethiopians and observers, who fear what will happen to the often troubled region at large. Several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Turkey, have asked their citizens to leave immediately.

Ireland currently recommends against all travel to Ethiopia and Irish citizens should leave the country immediately by commercial means.

Ireland has had a diplomatic presence in Ethiopia since 1994 and has provided $185m in government aid funding over the past five years.

In the coming weeks, Irish aid will distribute $18m to active partners in Ethiopia, including UN humanitarian organizations.

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