Nairobi: The information minister for Eritrea announced on Friday that his nation had summoned a British diplomat to express opposition to comments made by the UK ambassador to Ethiopia, who urged Asmara to leave Ethiopia's Tigray region.
During the federal government's two-year conflict with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Eritrean troops supported Ethiopian forces and have been charged by the US and human rights organisations with some of the worst atrocities of the conflict.
A peace agreement that was signed in November of last year to end the war called for the withdrawal of foreign troops, but Asmara was not a signatory and its troops are still present in Tigray's bordering regions.
The British ambassador to Ethiopia, Darren Welch, said in an interview that was made public on Wednesday that the UK government supported "calls for Eritrean forces to withdraw completely back to their own borders."
The British charge d'affaires in Asmara was called to a meeting by Eritrea's foreign ministry on Thursday "to convey strong message to Whitehall on unwarranted remarks of (the) British Ambassador to Ethiopia...apparently endorsing TPLF's irredentist claims," according to information minister Yemane Gebremeskel on X, formerly Twitter.
When Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, it engaged in a border conflict with its neighbour, which was then governed by the TPLF. This conflict strained relations until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in Addis Abeba and negotiated a peace deal.
After sending troops into Tigray, Eritrea, known as the "North Korea" of Africa, received sanctions from the US in 2021.
Residents claim that Eritrean soldiers are still present in Tigray more than nine months after the war ended, and they claim that its forces have been accused of murder, rape, and looting.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki dismissed claims that his country's troops had violated human rights in Tigray during a rare press conference held in Kenya earlier this year as "fantasy."
Human Rights Watch demanded new sanctions against Eritrea in February after accusing it of rounding up thousands of people, including minors, for conscription into the military during the Tigray conflict. Press freedom, along with human rights, civil liberties, and economic freedom, are all ranked among the lowest in the world by this nation.