Delegations to African Union-mediated peace talks on the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region meet in South Africa today despite a renewed offensive that saw federal forces re-take a few towns from Tigrayan forces.
The Ethiopian government put out a statement saying it viewed the talks as “an opportunity to peacefully resolve the conflict.”
For their part, the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or the TPLF, also confirmed their attendance, with a member of the central committee, Kindeya Gebrehiwot, tweeting that the delegation had arrived in South Africa Sunday.
The Tigray delegation is being led by one of the region’s top generals, Tsadkan Gebretensae, spokesman Getachew Reda, an official familiar with the talks told Reuters.
The Tigrayans arrived on a U.S. military aircraft, accompanied by the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, the official told Reuters.
Officials from host country South Africa were remaining mum on the much-anticipated negotiations, and their exact location is unclear. It is also unclear whether media will be addressed at their conclusion, or a statement released.
Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told VOA the department had no authority to speak on the talks and referred any questions to the African Union, which is organizing them. A spokesperson for the AU could not immediately be reached.
The talks come as fighting on the ground intensified, with the Ethiopian government saying they had “continued taking control of major urban centers in the past few days.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week that the situation was “spiraling out of control,” while World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, himself a Tigrayan, warned of the possibility of genocide.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced since the conflict broke out in late 2020.
The U.S. has expressed hope that the peace talks in South Africa will lead to a cessation of hostilities. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday he had spoken to South African counterpart Naledi Pandor “on how to make the peace talks successful.”
From the Vatican over the weekend, Pope Francis tweeted: “I follow the persistent situation of conflict in Ethiopia with trepidation. May the efforts of the parties for dialogue lead to a genuine path of reconciliation.”