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Tigray peace talks to start on Monday, says Addis Ababa

A woman queues to receive food assistance in the Tigrayan town of Shire last year. Photo Reuters

A woman queues to receive food assistance in the Tigrayan town of Shire last year. File photo Reuters

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 20, 2022 (NAIROBI) -The African Union (AU) has set October 24 as a new date for the start of direct talks between Tigray and the Ethiopian government, said Redwan Hussein, National Security Adviser of the Ethiopian Prime Minister on Thursday.

“AUC (African Union Commission) has informed us that the Peace Talks is set for October 24, 2022, to be held in South Africa,” said Redwan in a tweet posted on Thursday.

“We have reconfirmed our commitment to participate,” he said.

“However, we are dismayed that some are bent on preempting the peace talks and spreading false allegations against the defensive measures,” he further added.

The AU has not yet made an official announcement on the scheduled talks, which will be mediated by a team of top African politicians.

The panel is led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also the AU’s high representative for the Horn of Africa.

The Government of Tigray hasn’t yet reacted to the announcement by the Ethiopian government.

Also, Tigrayan leaders were not immediately available for comments.

The announcement of the peace talks comes a few days after the African Union (AU) called for an unconditional cessation of hostilities in northern Ethiopia and urged the warring parties to “recommit” to direct peace talks.

“Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is following with great concern reports of increased fighting in the war-torn Tigray region,” said an AU statement issued on Saturday.

The AU chief called for an “immediate, unconditional ceasefire” and for the resumption of humanitarian services to the Tigray, where 90 per cent of the estimated seven million people in the region depend on international humanitarian food aid.

The Chairperson then urged the Parties to recommit to dialogue as per their agreement to direct talks to be convened in South Africa by a high-level panel led by the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, and supported by the international community.

The government of Tigray welcomed the AU statement but called on the international community to take concrete actions against Eritrea to withdraw its forces from the territories of Tigray.

“We are ready to abide by an immediate cessation of hostilities,” said a statement released by Tigray External Affairs Office on Sunday.

“We also call on the international community to compel the Eritrean army to withdraw from Tigray, take practical steps towards an immediate cessation of hostilities, and press the Ethiopian Government to come to the negotiating table”.

The Ethiopian government on Monday said it plans to use military means to take control of all airports and other strategic infrastructure in the Tigray, despite an African Union (AU) appeal at the weekend that called for the immediate cessation of hostilities.

However, Abiy’s government reiterated its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through AU-led peace talks.

Previously, AU-led peace talks had been scheduled for October 9, in South Africa but were postponed over what filtered diplomatic sources said was due to logistical reasons.

The postponement raised serious questions about AU’s capability, credibility and impartiality in the peace process.

The regional body has long been under fire for its failure to bring meaningful progress to end the nearly two-year civil war in Tigray.

According to experts, the lack of commitment to conducting genuine mediation, and its poor specialist expertise in the mediation process have been the features of the continental body.