Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels willing to enter peace talks led by African Union

Forces 'ready to abide by ... mutually agreed cessation of hostilities'

The Ethiopian military at a rally in Addis Ababa last year. AP
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Ethiopia's Tigray rebels say they are willing to observe an immediate ceasefire and participate in a peace process led by the African Union after almost two years of war.

Their statement followed US pressure after heavy fighting restarted last month along the region’s borders.

“The government of Tigray is prepared to participate in a robust peace process under the auspices of the African Union,” said the Tigrayan authorities on Sunday night.

They said the rebels were “ready to abide by an immediate and mutually agreed cessation of hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere”.

It is estimated the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions without basic services after fighting erupted in late 2020.

Ethiopia’s government was yet to respond to the statement.

The Tigray authorities had criticised AU mediation efforts under special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo.

The statement said they expect “mutually acceptable mediators” along with international observers and experts to guide the process.

The Ethiopian government has said it was ready for talks “any time, anywhere” and without preconditions.

Tigray authorities had demanded the resumption of basic services and the removal of hostile forces from neighbouring Eritrea.

Diplomatic activity has begun behind the scenes since fighting restarted.

In pictures — peace talks and devastation in Africa

The US has played a leading mediating role, according to two diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa. The sources also said talks were expected in Djibouti, AP reported.

The Tigray authorities’ new statement was welcomed by the US, AU, UN and EU.

The US called on Eritrea and unnamed “others” to stop fuelling the conflict.

The AU statement referred to the “regional government of Tigray”, while Ethiopia’s government last year designated the Tigray authorities and their forces as a terrorist organisation.

The EU statement by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also referred to the regional government and said “this opportunity should be seized by all”.

Aid suspended

The renewed fighting has again cut off deliveries to Tigray of humanitarian aid, which had revived in a limited way during the lull in fighting earlier this year. Aid deliveries also have been suspended to parts of the neighbouring Amhara region affected by the fighting.

An aid worker said on Friday there had been heavy fighting on “seven or eight fronts” along Tigray’s borders.

A second aid worker said Eritrean troops had shelled the Tigray towns of Adigrat and Sheraro and had launched attacks against Tigray forces’ positions in several places.

The second aid worker said several thousand people displaced by the fighting around Sheraro arrived in the city of Shire last week. They also said a bridge linking Shire to the Amhara region had been destroyed. The bridge was blown up last year and later repaired.

Updated: September 12, 2022, 11:09 AM