Addis Ababa – The Ethiopian government has chastised EU and US envoys who visited the war-stricken region of Tigray, accusing them of siding with the rebels’ stance on peace talks and aid.
Negotiations between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) are on the cards, but key obstacles remain, including over who should mediate.
US Horn of Africa envoy Mike Hammer and EU counterpart Annette Weber visited Tigray’s capital Mekele this week to press for the launch of talks under the auspices of the African Union.
They also called for the restoration of basic services in Tigray and for unrestricted aid access to the region and neighbouring Afar and Amhara.
But Abiy’s national security adviser Redwan Hussein voiced the government’s “dismay” over the envoys’ mission in a post on Twitter late Thursday.
“The team failed to press for unequivocal commitment for peace talks, and rather indulged in appeasement & fulfilling preconditions placed by the other party,” he said.
“Regarding restoration of services, the will of the government has been reaffirmed and preludes for that have been reiterated: ie creating enabling conditions and semblance of peace by beginning the talks.”
The war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy ordered troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, accusing the rebels of attacking federal army camps.
Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia, has suffered food shortages and access to basic services such as electricity, communications and banking has been limited.
There has been a lull in fighting since a humanitarian truce was declared in March, paving the way for the resumption of international aid convoys to Tigray’s six million people.
But more than 13 million people remain in need of food assistance across northern Ethiopia, according to the United Nations.
Unfettered aid call
In a statement on Tuesday, the US and EU diplomats called for unfettered aid deliveries to Tigray, Afar and Amhara, and urged the government to lift restrictions on cash and fuel to Tigray.
But Redwan dismissed the envoys’ entreaties, saying the issue had been addressed.
“No limit on the number of flights; none either on the number of trucks carrying aid. The issue of fuel has also been addressed,” he added.
The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said in a July 22 report that a lack of cash and fuel in Tigray was “heavily impacting implementation of food distributions”.
TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael has warned that key services would have to be reinstated in Tigray and the “blockade” lifted before dialogue could begin.
The rebels also want any peace talks to be mediated by neighbouring Kenya, but the government insists they must be brokered by the AU.
“The bottom line? The AU is the only channel and has been reiterated in no uncertain terms once again,” Redwan said.
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