In preparation for peace negotiations with the Ethiopian government, Tigrayan rebels claim their negotiators have arrived in South Africa. The talks are intended to negotiate a peaceful end to the nation’s two-year war.
The delegation’s arrival in South Africa was confirmed late on Sunday by Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the rebel authorities in Tigray.
“Pressing: immediate cessation of hostilities, unfettered humanitarian access & withdrawal of Eritrean forces. There can’t be a military solution!” he added.
The second-most populous nation in Africa, Ethiopia, has announced that it will take part in the talks as diplomatic pressure grows for an end to the conflict there. Unknown numbers of people have died in the conflict, and millions more now require humanitarian assistance.
The presence of the Ethiopian delegation was not immediately known. After a five-month ceasefire, fighting broke out again in August, and the Eritrean army has since returned to the front lines in support of Ethiopian soldiers and their allies in the region.
Last week, as Ethiopian and Eritrean military seized towns in the area, forcing inhabitants to leave, the government in Addis Ababa threatened to retake control of airports and other federal sites in Tigray.
The battle “would end and peace will prevail,” according to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who promised to quickly defeat the dissident leaders in the northern area when he promised to send troops into Tigray in November 2020.
“Ethiopia will be peaceful, we will not continue fighting indefinitely,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said Thursday.
“I hope the day when we will stand with our Tigrayan brothers to work together for development is near.”
Since the AU’s attempt to bring the warring parties to the bargaining table earlier this month failed, calls for a ceasefire have intensified internationally.
The return to the front lines in August cut off much-needed help to Tigray, a six million-person territory that needs basic services as well as food, medication, and other necessities for survival.
Over the past year, Tigray has had a communications blackout, severely restricting independent reporting from the country.
On Friday, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the escalating conflict and rising concerns for civilians caught in the crossfire.
After the negotiations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US representative to the UN, said that thousands of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Tigrayan forces were involved in active battle.
“The scale of the fighting and deaths rival what we’re seeing in Ukraine, and innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire,” she said.
“Over two years of conflict, as many as half a million people have died, and the United States is deeply concerned about the potential for further mass atrocities.”
The main body for conflict resolution in the AU, the Peace and Security Council, convened on Friday for the first time since the fighting started up again in August.
The 15-member council expressed its appreciation for “the reciprocal agreements to genuinely participate in the peace process” and wished for a “fruitful outcome” in a statement.
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