BRUSSELS, Oct 9 (Reuters) – The European Union called on Ethiopia on Tuesday to ensure that civilians in its troubled Ogaden region are protected and receive humanitarian aid.

U.N. investigators touring the impoverished, predominantly ethnic Somali region — where Ethiopian soldiers have been fighting separatist rebels for months — urged Ethiopia last month to ensure food and aid agencies can get in the region.

Ethiopia had said it would take action on that.

“The EU commends the Ethiopian government for its reaction to the (U.N.) report and calls upon it to follow up all recommendations of the mission, including actions to protect civilians in conflict,” the bloc’s Portuguese presidency said in a statement.

“(The EU) welcomes its stated willingness to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the population in the Somali region of Ethiopia are properly addressed,” the statement said.

The statement noted “with concern … the (U.N.) report’s conclusion that humanitarian conditions within the conflict areas have deteriorated substantially over the past several months”.

Medecins Sans Frontiers and the International Committee of the Red Cross have accused the Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa of denying aid groups access to the region.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels accuse Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s administration of blockading the region — the poorest part of Ethiopia — risking a “man-made” famine, along with burning down homes and summary executions.

Meles’ government denies all the accusations, and calls the ONLF terrorists funded by arch-foe and neighbour Eritrea.