Ethiopia: Tigray Peace Talk Delegation Arrive in South Africa, Blinken Speaks With President Ruto, SA Foreign Minister Pandor

Addis Abeba — The pace talk delegation composed of officials from Tigray regional state arrived in South Africa ahead of today’s AU-led peace talk between Tigray and federal government officials. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Kenya’s President, William Ruto, and “commended his critical role in regional peace and security in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.” He also spoke with South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, “on how to make Ethiopia peace talks successful.”

The arrival in South Africa of the delegation from Tigray was confirmed last night by Prof. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, TPLF Central Committee member and a member of Tigray external affairs office. “The delegation of the Govt of Tigray to attend the AU-led peace talks on Ethiopia Tigray have just arrived at South Africa. Pressing: immediate cessation of hostilities, unfettered humanitarian access & withdrawal of Eritrean forces. There can’t be a military solution,” Prof. Kindeya tweeted.

In a statement released a short while ago, the federal government said it “will be participating in the AU convened peace talks to be held in South Africa.”

“The Government of Ethiopia views the talks as an opportunity to peacefully resolve the conflict and consolidate the improvement of the situation on the ground brought about through the sacrifices of the ENDF” the statement said, and confirmed that “the delegation has left for South Africa this morning.”

However, as of the publishing of this news, the government has not mentioned the names comprised of the team representing it in the planned talks. But sources close to the matter told Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity that the delegation is composed of a group of ten and includes Ambassador Redwan Hussien, Security Advisor of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Gedion Timothewos (PhD), Minister of Justice, Dr. Getachew Jember, Deputy President of Amhara regional state, and Ambassador Hassan Abdulkadir, Coordinator, Prosperity Party’s Democratic System Office. Addis Standard could not corroborate the information from government officials.

On 27 June, the federal government announced that the peace negotiation team would be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen, and is composed of Gedion Timothewos, Ambassador Redwan, Temesgen Tiruneh, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Lt. Gen. Berhanu Bekele, Chief of Military Intelligence office (former head of the Republican Guard), Ambassador Hassan Abdulkadir, Coordinator, Prosperity Party’s Democratic System Office, and Dr. Getachew Jember, Deputy President of Amhara regional state. But there is no indication if Demeke is included in the team.

On 11 September, Tigray regional state named Getachew Reda, advisor of the Tigray region’s president, Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), and Lt. Gen. Tsadikan Gebretinsae, former chief of staff of the Ethiopian defense forces and key member of Tigrayan forces, as its negotiation team “ready to be deployed without delay.”

Prof. Kindeya did not mention the names of the delegation, but information circulating on various pro-Tigray media outlets and activists indicate that both Lt. Gen. Tsadikan and Getachew are part of the team.

Peace talk amidst growing calls for cessation of hostilities

The planned peace talk, the second attempt by the AU, is taking place today amidst growing global calls for immediate cessation of hostilities between federal forces backed by Eritrean army and Amhara region militia on the one hand and Tigrayan forces on the other, and for withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, where they continue committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to latest reports.

After discussing the conflict in Ethiopia in a closed meeting on Friday, the UN security council failed to issue a statement unlike the AU Peace and Security Council which in a statement called for an “immediate, comprehensive and unconditional ceasefire and the resumption of humanitarian services.” On the same day the UN Security Council held a closed meeting requested by the A3 members of the Council – Gabon, Ghana and Kenya but failed to issue a statement.

Both the AU-PSC and the UNSC met following a call by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat for “an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and resumption of humanitarian services” in the Tigray region.

Similar calls were also echoed by individual countries and members states of the UNSC. US representative to the UN ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield said it was “past time for all of the parties to lay down their weapons and return to peace. It is past time for cessation of hostilities and for unhindered humanitarian access for those in need. It is past time for Eritrean Defense forces to halt their joint military offensive and for Ethiopia to ask Eritrea to withdraw its soldiers from northern Ethiopia.”

She also said over the two years of fighting “as many as half a million people have died and the US is deeply concerned about the potential further mass atrocities” and indicated that the US is ready to take “appropriate measures against those who obstruct resolution of this conflict and we are determined to have those who commit human rights abuses held to account.”

Although, on 20 October the federal government said it was committed to participate in the peace talks three days earlier on 17 October it had declined the calls for cessation of hostilities and said that it would continue to take “defensive measures” against what it said was “repeated attack of the TPLF and its active collusion with hostile foreign powers”.

The federal government also said it was “imperative” that it “assumes immediate control of all airports, other federal facilities and installations in the region”, and called on civilians and humanitarian operators to distance themselves from Tigrayan forces’ military assets, signaling plans for complete takeover of the Tigray regional state. Since then, the federal government backed by the Eritrean army and Amhara militia has taken control of Shire, Alamata and Korem. Although official announcement is yet to come, pro-government media outlets and bloggers have said over the weekend that the allied forces are also in control of Axum and Adwa cities. AS

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