G7 foreign ministers call for 'swift' pullout of Eritrean troops from Tigray
The G7 group of leading economic powers on Friday called for a “swift, unconditional and verifiable” withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s conflict-hit northern Tigray region.
“We welcome the recent announcement from Prime Minister Abiy that Eritrean forces will withdraw from Tigray,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement released in Berlin, referring to Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed.
“This process must be swift, unconditional and verifiable.”
The ministers appealed for “the end of violence and the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray”.
The G7 statement said the process had to lead to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process.
Abiy sent troops into Tigray in November to detain and disarm leaders of the once-dominant regional party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
He said the move came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.
For months, both countries denied troops from Eritrea were in Tigray, contradicting accounts from residents, aid workers, diplomats and even some Ethiopian officials.
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Amid mounting international pressure, Abiy said last week that Eritrean troops would pull out of Tigray.
But the region’s interim leader Mulu Nega told AFP this week that withdrawal was “a process” and would not happen immediately.
The G7 nations also said they were “strongly concerned” about recent reports of rights abuses in Tigray.
“All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law,” they said.
Leinster's European Champions Cup last 16 match with Toulon on Friday was cancelled just hours before kickoff after a player from the French side tested positive for coronavirus.
On the basis of matches already cancelled in this season's competition it is likely Leinster will be awarded the match.
The Toulon squad were already in Dublin for the eagerly anticipated game between four-time winners Leinster and the three-time champions that was due to kick off at 1630 GMT.
"This afternoon’s Champions Cup Round of 16 match between Leinster Rugby and RC Toulon at The RDS Arena in Dublin has been cancelled," European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said in a statement.
The winner of Friday's match has been drawn to meet 2020 champions Exeter Chiefs or Lyon on April 9.
Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre said the club were angry they were allowed to travel to Dublin even after the unnamed player had tested positive.
"It's infuriating. The player was tested positive on Wednesday and isolated immediately," Lemaitre told rugbyrama.fr.
"The EPCR was informed immediately... And despite a re-test of the (remaining) players last night that proved negative, these people have taken the decision less than five hours before the match."
During the group stages of the tournament, any side unable to play a fixture due to a Covid-19 case forfeited the game.
If the same principle is applied to the knockout stages, Leinster would advance to the last eight.
This season's competition has been heavily disrupted by the pandemic.
The remaining pool fixtures in January were scrapped following French government concerns regarding cross-border travel.
And the final, due to take place on May 22, was this week moved from the French city of Marseille for a second year running due to the pandemic.
Scotland flanker Hamish Watson has been named Six Nations Player of the Championship after a vote by fans, the organisers announced on Friday.
The 29-year-old was a key factor in Scotland's wins over England and France -- the first time they had won in both Paris and Twickenham in the same championship since 1926.
The all-action Watson missed just 14 minutes over the course of five matches, scoring one try.
The Edinburgh player captured 35 percent of over 125,000 votes cast by fans to finish ahead of 2020 winner Antoine Dupont of France, Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau of Wales, and Ireland duo Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne.
"I'm very surprised, obviously loads of top players were up for the award," said Watson.
"I think when you do win something like that, it's full credit to the team I'm in as well and to all of the guys who have won it previously.
"It shows what good teams you're playing for. The Scotland team we're all playing in at the moment is a great team and we really believe we can achieve things in the next few years."
He is the second Scot to claim the award since it began in 2004, joining his captain Stuart Hogg who took it in 2016 and 2017.
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