Ethiopian Tigray rebels say they are ready for AU-led peace talks | Conflict News

The TPLF says it expects a “credible” peace process with “mutually acceptable” mediators to negotiate with the government.

Ethiopian rebels in Tigray say they are ready to join the African Union (AU)-led peace talks, removing an obstacle to possible negotiations with the government to end nearly two years of fighting.

The announcement came amid a flurry of international diplomacy after fighting broke out last month for the first time in months in northern Ethiopia, torpedoing a humanitarian truce.

“The government of Tigray is ready to participate in a robust peace process under the auspices of the African Union,” said a statement from authorities in the northernmost region of Tigray.

“Furthermore, we are ready to respect an immediate and mutually agreed cessation of hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere.”

There was no immediate comment from the Ethiopian government, which has long insisted that any peace process must be brokered by the AU, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.

But the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had so far fiercely opposed the role of AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, protesting his “closeness” to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Sunday’s statement, which coincided with the Ethiopian New Year, made no mention of preconditions for the talks, although it expected a ‘credible’ peace process with ‘mutually acceptable’ mediators as well as international observers .

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael had earlier this month offered a truce with four conditions, including “unfettered humanitarian access” and the restoration of essential services in war-torn Tigray.

In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, he had also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from all over Ethiopia and the withdrawal of troops from western Tigray, a disputed region claimed by both Tigrayans and the Amharas, the country’s second largest. largest ethnic group.

“Prefer talks to fights”

On Saturday, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat announced that Obasanjo’s term would be extended.

“I reiterated my full confidence in him and encouraged his continued engagement with both parties and international actors to work for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and the region,” Faki said on Twitter after meeting Obasanjo. .

Faki also said he spoke with US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, on Saturday.

“May the parties to the conflict have the courage to choose talks over fighting and to participate in an African Union-led process that produces lasting peace,” Hammer said in a New Year’s message to Ethiopians on Sunday.

Fighting has been raging on several fronts in northern Ethiopia for hostilities have resumed on August 24, with both sides accusing the other of firing first and breaking a March truce.

Fighting first broke out around Tigray’s southeastern border but has since spread to areas west and north of the initial clashes, with the TPLF accusing Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of launching a joint offensive mass on September 1.

The UN said on Thursday that renewed fighting had forced a halt to desperately needed aid deliveries to Tigray, both by road and by air.

The March Truce allowed aid convoys into Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, for the first time since mid-December.

But in its first situation report since the latest clashes erupted, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the violence was “already impacting the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people, including the provision of vital humanitarian aid”.

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