Tigray rebels ready for truce, African Union-led peace talks to end Ethiopia conflict

TPLF says it expects 'credible' peace talks with 'mutually acceptable' mediators, international observers.

Tigray rebels ready for truce, African Union-led peace talks to end Ethiopia conflict

Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels have said they are willing to halt fighting and take part in peace talks led by the African Union (AU).

“We are ready to abide by an immediate and mutually agreed cessation of hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere,” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebel group leading an insurgency in northern Ethiopia for nearly two years, said in a statement on Sunday.

The TPLF said it was “prepared to participate in a robust peace process under the auspices of the African Union,” adding that it expects a “credible AU-led peace process” with “mutually acceptable” mediators and international observers.

As the statement did not mention any preconditions for talks, it remains unclear whether the TPLF will retract its previous demands for resumption of basic services such as electricity, telecommunications and banking, as well as the withdrawal of Eritrean forces.

The TPLF, which ruled Ethiopia for almost three decades until 2018, has been engaged in conflict with Ethiopian forces since November 2020.

After a months-long truce was shattered in late August, the Ethiopian military has been making significant inroads into Tigray, taking over strategic areas and towns that were under TPLF control for the past year, according to military sources.

The TPLF was previously opposed to AU mediation, accusing its special envoy for Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, of having close ties with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Ethiopian government, which has been adamant on AU involvement in any peace talks, is yet to comment on the rebels’ announcement.

The development comes a week after Mike Hammer, the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met Ethiopian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, as well as African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Obasanjo in Addis Ababa.

US President Joe Biden also renewed last week an executive order he signed a year ago authorizing sanctions against “parties to the conflict” in Ethiopia.

Mahamat, the AU Commission chairperson, welcomed the TPLF’s declaration as a “positive development” that presents “a unique opportunity towards the restoration of peace.”

He urged both sides to “urgently work towards an immediate cease-fire, engage in direct talks, in an AU-led process that is inclusive of mutually agreed international partners.”

Hüseyin Demir