Tigray rebels deny 'direct engagements' with Ethiopia govt
Tigrayan rebels denied having "direct engagements" with the Ethiopian government on Saturday.
Following a statement by the African Union, which has been leading a campaign to resolve the 21-month conflict, Tigrayan rebels denied having "direct talks" with the Ethiopian government on Saturday.
The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesman, Getachew Reda, called an AFP story citing an AU statement "pure fabrication." "Such engagement simply didn’t happen!" he said on Twitter.
The African Union's Peace and Security Council, in a statement dated August 4 but posted on its website on Thursday, said it "commends the AU High Representative for direct engagements between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF)."
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However, the word "between" has been substituted with "with" in an updated version of the statement on the website, and the original, which was published in both English and French, is no longer available. AFP has contacted the PSC for comment but there was no immediate response.
Government forces have been at odds with the TPLF since November 2020, although both sides have recently raised the prospect of peace talks.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wants the AU to lead any negotiations, but the rebels want Kenya's outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta to mediate.
Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the TPLF, has also requested that critical services in Tigray be restored before negotiations can begin.
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In its statement, the AU council called on the warring sides "to place the supreme interests of Ethiopia and its people above all else and embrace inclusive political dialogue as the only viable approach towards finding a consensual solution to the current situation".
It also encouraged international allies to back the African Union-led mediation chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, "as the only viable and effective approach towards finding a negotiated lasting solution to the situation in Ethiopia".
Fighting has subsided in northern Ethiopia since a humanitarian truce was proclaimed at the end of March, allowing international supply convoys to resume their journey to Tigray's six million residents.
Food has been scarce in Ethiopia's northernmost region since the war began, and access to essential services such as electricity, communications, and banking has been severely restricted.
In November 2020 Abiy ordered troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, accusing the rebels of attacking federal army camps.
In June of last year, the TPLF staged a surprise return, retaking Tigray and moving into adjacent Afar and Amhara before the conflict came to a halt.