Western diplomats met TPLF leader over peace in Tigray

The EU and U.S. Special Envoys for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber and Mike Hammer, on Tuesday, travelled to Mekelle, Tigray to encourage the launch of talks between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The special envoys who travelled in their first joint mission to the war-torn Tigray region under the African Union’s auspices met Debretsion Gebremichael, Tigray Regional President and other senior TPLF leaders in Mekele.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Getachew Reda, advisor to the president and senior TPLF leader said President Debretsion Gebremichael has held “productive talks” with the special envoys.

“President Debretsion explained Tigray’s position on negotiations and the hurdles standing in the way of peaceful settlement of the war on Tigray in all its forms including the siege that has been imposed on the people of Tigray,” said Getachew.

“He expressed his readiness for peace while reiterating the government’s unwavering commitment to end the suffering of our people” he added.

The special envoys underscored political dialogue was necessary to resolve the conflict in northern Ethiopia and to achieve a durable peace.

The Envoys welcomed the public commitment by both parties to engage in talks and expressed their readiness to support African-led mediation.

The envoys agree that a swift restoration of electricity, telecom, banking, and other basic services in Tigray is essential for the people of Tigray, as recognized in earlier discussions with the Ethiopian Government.

TPLF leader and Tigray Regional President Debretsion provided the diplomats with a letter to be passed to the Government of Ethiopia providing security guarantees for those who need to work to restore services in Tigray.

“With this security assurance there should be no obstacle for the restoration of services to begin,” the EU said in a statement Tuesday.

“Equally, unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray and the Afar and Amhara neighbouring regions affected by the conflict is imperative, accompanied by the lifting of restrictions on cash, fuel, and fertilisers”

“Improved civilian-military coordination will help ensure effective and transparent aid distribution” it added.

Furthermore, the EU and US reiterated committed to providing assistance to all communities in need in Ethiopia, including those affected by drought and food insecurity.

“Accountability is a key foundation for reconciliation. In this vein, the Envoys urged cooperation with, and access to the conflict areas for, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) to enable them to conduct a credible investigation” the EU statement added.

The envoys furthermore appealed to all parties to the conflict to refrain from hate speech and provocative rhetoric.

The special envoys were also accompanied by Ambassadors of Canada, Italy and the Deputy Head of the UK Mission on various issues of concern.

Their visit to Mekelle comes only a few days after the Ethiopian government announced its readiness to hold peace talks with Tigray leaders regardless of the date and venue for negotiations.

The federal government “is ready to talk anytime, anywhere,” and “talks should begin without preconditions,” said Ambassador Redwan Hussein, the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser.

Hussein made the announcement last Thursday during a briefing to Horn of Africa Special Envoys of the UN, the EU and the U.S. as well as to the Ambassadors of the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and the UK to Ethiopia.

It has been months since the government and Tigray leaders expressed their desire to negotiate to end the almost two-year-old bloody war.

Recently, the federal government announced that a seven-member committee led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonon to lead the dialogue with the Tigray forces has started its work.

Following this, the Tigray forces announced that they have set up a team of negotiators but did not disclose who the representatives were.

Peace talks between the TPLF and the federal government were initially expected to begin by the end of June.

Differences over who leads the mediation process, and the venue for talks are major factors that delayed the launch of the political process.

Addis Ababa insists that the AU leads the mediation.

The TPLF, however, doubts the bloc’s neutrality and indicated their preference for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta adding he should lead the mediation bringing on board the US, EU and the UN alongside the African Union (AU).

Source: Sudan Tribune