The African Union (AU) on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Tigray, where violence has further escalated. After UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern over the worsening situation, it was the President of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who called for “a ceasefire”. – immediate and unconditional fire”.
“The President urges the parties to reiterate their commitment to dialogue in line with their agreement on direct talks to be convened in South Africa,” he added in a statement.
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In response, rebels from the People’s Liberation Front of Tiger (TPLF) said they were “ready to respect the immediate cessation of hostilities”. “We also call on the international community to force the Eritrean army to withdraw from Tigray, to take steps for an immediate cessation of hostilities and to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to come to the negotiating table.” said the TPLF.
The latest fighting came as US special envoy for the region, Mike Hammer, arrived in Addis Ababa to press for an end to the nearly two-year-old war.
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The town of Shire, about 40km south of the border with Eritrea in northwestern Tigray, has been “subject to continuous airstrikes and heavy artillery all this week”, said a humanitarian worker on the ground. Led by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, this joint offensive caused numerous civilian casualties.
A member of the NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) was killed and another wounded in one of those attacks on October 14, which killed two other civilians, according to the IRC. He distributed food to “WFP beneficiaries including mothers and vulnerable children,” the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said on 16 October.
Shortly before, the US department’s Africa office had assessed on Twitter that the “priority” was to “achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities”. Referring to the “recent indiscriminate attacks” by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, the head of the United States Agency for Humanitarian Aid (USAID), Samantha Power, believes that “the risk of atrocities and further loss of life is increasing, especially around the Shire”.
Negotiations were planned in South Africa
The ball is now in the court of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, which declined to comment immediately. The latter and the Tigrayan authorities had accepted an invitation from the AU to discuss, but the talks that were supposed to begin last weekend in South Africa did not take place.
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Diplomats have suggested that logistical problems were partly behind their delay. Clashes resumed in August in Tigray after a five-month lull, shaking hopes of resolving a conflict that has left dozens of civilians dead and displaced some two million. of people.