Jun 18, 2021 - World

EU envoy: Ethiopia's leaders said they "are going to wipe out" Tigrayans

Image of  Pekka Haavisto speaking to the press.
Pekka Haavisto speaks to media on September 21, 2020. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

During closed-door talks in February, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other ministers said they were "going to wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years,” according to a European Union special envoy, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s foreign minister, condemned the statements this week, warning that the claims from Ethiopia's leaders “looks for us like ethnic cleansing,” per AP.

Flashback: Haavisto, who has served as the EU's special envoy in Ethiopia for months, had two days of "substantive meetings" with Abiy and other ministers in February.

  • They discussed the growing humanitarian crisis in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, where thousands of civilians have been killed and a famine has plagued more than 350,000 people.

Driving the news: Haavisto's statements come as Ethiopia prepares to vote in a national election on Monday, which will test Abiy's leadership and the prospects for democracy in the country, which is facing a wave of ethnic violence.

What they're saying: “If you wipe out your national minority, well, what is it?” Haavisto said this week during a question-and-answer session with a European Parliament committee.

  • “You cannot destroy all the people, you cannot destroy all the population in Tigray," Haavisto said. "And I think that’s very obvious, that we have to react, because it looks for us like ethnic cleansing. It is a very, very serious act if this is true.”
  • Ethiopia’s foreign ministry dismissed Haavisto’s comments as “ludicrous” and a “hallucination of sorts or a lapse in memory of some kind,” according to AP.
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