Kampala, Uganda (AP) – Ethiopian authorities said on Saturday that Eritrean troops had begun withdrawing from Tigray, where they had been fighting alongside Ethiopian forces in a fight against fugitive regional leaders.
Eritreans “have now begun to evacuate” Tigray and Ethiopian forces have “taken over the protection of the national border,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It is not clear how many Eritrean troops have left, and some in Tigray claim that the Eritreans are not leaving at all. Regional leaders have accused Eritrea troops of sometimes wearing Ethiopian military uniforms.
The Ethiopian government faces strong pressure to end the Tigray war, which began in November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed troops there following an attack on federal military facilities. Fugitive leaders of the region do not recognize Abiy’s authority after national elections were postponed last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The G-7 group of nations issued a strong statement Friday calling for the “rapid, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal” of Eritrean troops from Tigray after Abiy said last week the Eritreans had agreed to leave.
The statement also pushed for “the establishment of a clear, inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray, and that leads to credible elections and a broader process of national reconciliation.”
The International Crisis Group, in an analysis released Friday, warned of the danger of a “prolonged” war, citing ingrained Tigrayan resistance combined with the determination of Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities to keep fugitive Tigray leaders in power. .
“This would further destroy Tigray and severely damage Ethiopia, the main state in the Horn of Africa,” the report said. “With a decisive victory on the battlefield for each side a distant perspective, the parties must consider a cessation of hostilities that allows for the expansion of humanitarian aid. This first practical step will reduce civilian suffering and ideally paved the way for a return to dialogue on the street. “
There are growing reports of atrocities such as massacres and rapes in war, and concern is growing about the lack of food and medical care in Tigray, Ethiopia’s 6 million home to more than 110 million people.
The United States has characterized some abuses in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing,” accusations leveled by Ethiopian authorities as baseless. Officials in Addis Ababa, residents of Ethiopia, have not mentioned a number of war dead.
The United Nations and an Ethiopian rights agency announced last week that they had agreed to conduct a joint investigation into abuses in Tigray, where fighting continues as government troops shoot loyal fighters of the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that dominated national policy for decades before the rise of Abij.
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