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Ethiopia PM Says Committee Created to Negotiate With Tigray Forces

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FILE - Cows walk past a tank damaged in fighting between Ethiopian government and Tigray forces, near the town of Humera, Ethiopia, March 3, 2021.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced the formation of a committee to begin peace talks with the leadership in the northern Tigray region after 18 months of war.

Abiy spoke to parliament on Tuesday about the conflict in comments broadcast on state television.

“We need to repeat the victory that we made on the battlefield in peace talks,” he said, adding that the war is hindering the country’s development. “Every bullet that is shot is like a dollar lost.”

Abiy said that the committee would be led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen and would be given 10 to 15 days to decide what will be up for negotiation.

Although the talks may have the potential to bring an end to Ethiopia’s civil war, William Davison, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based non-profit research group, told VOA that important details are yet to emerge.

“We don’t have a clear idea of the participants,” Davison said. “To achieve a sustainable peace that would need the representation from other actors in the conflict.”

The return of forces allied with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to the disputed region of Western Tigray, which was occupied by Amhara regional forces, Amhara militia known as “Fano” and Ethiopia’s federal forces in the recent conflict, is likely to be a major sticking point in peace talks.

Last week TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda denied claims that the TPLF has “abandoned claims to Western Tigray.”

The regional leadership later issued a statement on June 11 saying that “the depiction of Western Tigray as a contested land is ... unacceptable and inimical to any peace-making efforts. The expansionist Amhara elite has seized it by force and that is simply unacceptable.”

The next day, Yilikal Kefale, chief administrator of the Amhara region, issued a statement on June 12, saying negotiations regarding Western Tigray or the area which is referred to as Welkait by the Amhara region is “our red line,” he said.

In April, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint report saying forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region may have committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray.

Speaking to VOA after the report was issued, Amnesty International's Horn of Africa researcher Fisseha Tekle said that forces from the Amhara region, aided by government troops, seized control of Western Tigray and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The conflict in Tigray between the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF began in November 2020. Neighboring Eritrea joined the fight against TPLF, deploying its forces to Tigray where they are accused of committing war crimes.

The conflict quickly exploded into a civil war which, along with famine, has killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people and forced 2.2 million to flee from their homes, according to the U.N.

Editor's note: The story has been updated to include additional information.

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