Don't meddle in Tigray, Ethiopia tells UN

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Ethiopia has told the international community to steer clear of sanctions and avoid meddling over its war with forces from its Tigray region, and to let the African Union work on bringing all parties together.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly meeting of world leaders on Saturday, Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minster Demeke Mekonnen defended his country's conduct in the 10-month-old war.

"Prescriptions and punitive measures never helped improve situations or relations," he said, less than 10 days after the United States threatened to impose sanctions against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders if they do not take steps to end the fighting.

"While co-operation and concern from our friends is welcome, we underline the need to employ a constructive approach, cultivate trust and ensure understanding," Mekonnen said.

The US mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

War erupted in Tigray in November after a political clash between Abiy and Tigrayans who had long dominated the national government.

The war has triggered a potential famine, threatened stability in Africa's second-most populous country and upended Abiy's image two years after he won a Nobel Prize for making peace with neighbours Eritrea.

Eritrea fought on Ethiopia's side in Tigray.

The US and United Nations say Ethiopian troops have prevented the passage of trucks carrying food and other aid, with scores of people starving to death.

The UN human rights office says all sides have committed abuses.

Mekonnen suggested international critics were swayed by a "twisted propaganda campaign", and said Ethiopia's leaders were coming to see humanitarian assistance efforts as "a pretext for advancing political considerations".

Insisting the government was committed to aiding its people, he said it would work with "partners that adhere to the principles of neutrality, independence and humanity and the laws of the country.

"Apart from this, no excuse will justify any attempt to intervene in our internal affairs," the deputy prime minister warned.

He said Ethiopia was willing to work with the African Union, and its new special representative to the Horn of Africa, toward an "Ethiopia-led national dialogue".

"We only hope the African Union will be given the space to apply its own wisdom," Mekonnen said.

Tigrayan forces leader Debretsion Gebremichael said in a letter to the UN last month the AU "cannot provide any solution to the war".

In a subsequent letter to more than 50 heads of state and government and multilateral organisations, Gebremichael entreated them to pressure Ethiopia for the "immediate and unconditional lifting of the siege on Tigray" and "an internationally sponsored and all-inclusive negotiation" for a ceasefire.

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