Ethiopia Vowed to Wipe Out Tigrayan People 'for 100 Years,' EU Official Says

Ethiopian officials have vowed to wipe out Tigrayans, an ethnic minority group, "for 100 years," the European Union's (EU) special envoy to Ethiopia said this week.

Pekka Haavisto, who is also Finland's foreign affairs minister, told a European Parliament committee about comments made at talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other officials in February.

"If you wipe out your national minority, well, what is it? 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 denounced Haavisto's comments as "ludicrous," saying they were a "hallucination of sorts or a lapse in memory of some kind." Meanwhile, conflict in the country's northern Tigray region, where about 6 million reside, has left thousands dead.

Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto
Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto attends a foreign ministers affairs council in Brussels on September 21, 2020. Haavisto, who also is the European Union's special envoy to Ethiopia, said the country's officials vowed to wipe out the ethnic Tigrayans "for 100 years" during talks in February. Oliver Hoslet/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The remarks by Haavisto are some of the sharpest ones yet on the conflict. Haavisto's special adviser, Otto Turtonen, told the AP that the envoy "has no further comment on this matter."

Haavisto said he had "two intensive days in substantive meetings" with Abiy and other "key ministers" about the growing humanitarian crisis in Tigray, where a famine has begun in a region. Ethiopian and allied forces from neighboring Eritrea have been accused of atrocities while pursuing fighters supporting Tigray's former leaders.

It is not clear from Haavisto's remarks this week which Ethiopian officials made the comments about wiping out ethnic Tigrayans.

"When I met the Ethiopian leadership in February they really used this kind of language, that they are going to destroy the Tigrayans, they are going to wipe out the Tigrayans for 100 years and so forth," the envoy said.

The United Nations human rights office has said all sides in the conflict have been accused of abuses, but witnesses have largely blamed Ethiopian and Eritrean forces for forced starvation, mass expulsions, gang rapes and more.

 European Union Envoy to Ethiopia
Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks with the media in Lisbon, Portugal. Armando Franca/AP Photo