(Bloomberg) — Eritrean forces are present inside disputed territory that straddles the border between Ethiopia and Sudan, according to the United Nations.
The deployment in the so-called al-Fashqa triangle comes amid escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan over control of the area of fertile farming land.
“The conflict along the border between Sudan and Ethiopia remains active, with Sudanese Armed Forces and Ethiopian — including Amhara militias — and Eritrean forces deployed around Barkhat settlement in Greater Fashaga and clashes reported since early March,” the UN said Tuesday in its latest situation report on Ethiopia.
Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel didn’t answer his phone when Bloomberg called seeking comment.
The report on the deployment came as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed admitted for the first time that Eritrean forces have been backing his government’s forces in a conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Answering questions posed by lawmakers in parliament on Tuesday, Abiy said he had no interest in escalating tensions with Sudan.
“Ethiopia also has many problems, and we are not ready to go to battle. We don’t need war,” he said in remarks translated into English for a live TV broadcast. “It is better to settle it in a peaceful manner.”
Ethiopia and Sudan’s armies have deployed armaments including tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to the border region. Sudan is also building new roads to the border area to improve access during the rainy season that is due to begin in July.
Sudanese officials have discussed the al-Fashqa dispute with Saudi Arabian officials and this week welcomed an offer by the United Arab Emirates to mediate the border impasse as well as a disagreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday reiterated his call on the need to seek a binding legal agreement regulating the filling and operation of the dam. He stressed the necessity of avoiding unilateral measures that seek to impose a fait accompli, his office said in a statement.
READ: Egypt and Sudan Are Ganging Up on Ethiopia’s Dam: Amr Adly
The UN also said in its report that more than 140,000 people have been displaced from western Tigray since forces from Amhara occupied the area in November.
“The number of newly displaced people across the region continued to increase, with at least 1,000 people arriving daily in Shire,” the report said, referring to a town in northern part of Tigray.