US expecting new round of Ethiopia peace talks to build on cessation of hostilities

'Effective' truce comes with warning that drought and starvation are exacerbating conflict

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A new round of peace talks for Ethiopia led by African Union representative Olusegun Obasanjo is imminent, a senior US official said on Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said the talks could begin “soon".

“We are committed to supporting talks between the parties and we're hopeful that the AU High Representative for the talks in Ethiopia, former [Nigerian] president Obasanjo, will soon announce a location and a time for those talks,” she said.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee. Photo: US Mission Photo

The peace negotiations will build on the cessation of hostilities that was announced in March, leading to a pause in fighting in the two-year conflict between the government in Addis Ababa and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ms Phee, who accompanied US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his trip to Africa this week, described the ceasefire in Ethiopia as “effective".

“There has been an effective cessation of hostilities with a so-called humanitarian ceasefire between the Ethiopian government and the forces of the TPLF that has held and that is really important,” she said.

The TPLF agreed to the truce in return for the Ethiopian government providing indefinite humanitarian aid to Tigray.

More than two million civilians have been internally displaced and 5.2 million people in the region are in urgent need of food, the UN says.

The Ethiopian government has also cracked down on militias accused of fomenting instability and has arrested more than 4,000 people in the past two months on suspicion of being linked to the Oromo Liberation Army and Al Shabab, it announced last week.

Trillions of locusts swarm across parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, causing fear that the land on which livestock are dependent will be devastated. Getty Images

But the country is also suffering from a long-running drought that Ms Phee stressed has exacerbated the effects of the conflict.

On a trip to the Horn of Africa last month, USAID administrator Samantha Power said the organisation would provide about $1.3 billion to help combat regional drought and famine.

Meanwhile, other international organisations such as the World Food Programme this week issued a warning that they will run out of food for Ethiopian refugees by October.

Updated: August 12, 2022, 6:13 AM
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