U.S. condemns the expulsion of UN officials from Ethiopia, could apply sanctions

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WASHINGTON, USA - The United States condemns Ethiopia's expulsion of United Nations officials and will not hesitate to use sanctions against those who obstruct humanitarian efforts in the country, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was expelling seven senior U.N. officials, two days after the U.N. aid chief warned hundreds of thousands of people in the northern region of Tigray were likely experiencing famine due to a government blockade of aid.

UN chief 'shocked' by expulsion 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he "was shocked" at the expulsion of seven senior UN officials by Ethiopia for "meddling in internal affairs."

The UN chief said all UN humanitarian operations are guided by the core principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.

"In Ethiopia, the UN is delivering life-saving aid - including food, medicine, water, and sanitation supplies – to people in desperate need. I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work," Guterres said in a statement.

He noted the UN is committed to helping Ethiopians who he said rely on humanitarian assistance.

"We are now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work," he said.

Earlier, Ethiopia ordered the UN officials to leave the country within 72 hours.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, staffers from different UN organizations have been declared “persona non grata” for "meddling in the internal affairs" of the nation.

The statement did not provide further details but the declaration was made in connection with the agencies’ operations in Ethiopia's northernmost region of Tigray.

A region of 5.5 million people, Tigray came under intense international spotlight after an armed conflict began between the federal government and forces of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

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