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Ethiopia, Tigray Head Invited to Talks 10/05 06:04


   NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- The leader of Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region and 
the federal government have been invited to peace talks in South Africa this 
weekend as part of a pan-African effort to end one of the world's most 
overlooked wars, according to a letter seen Wednesday by The Associated Press.

   If Debretsion Gebremichael attends the proposed talks between the Tigray and 
Ethiopian sides, it will be the highest-level effort yet to end the two-year 
war that has killed thousands of people from conflict and starvation.

   Ethiopia's government has accepted the invitation, national security adviser 
Redwan Hussein said. In a separate statement, the government called it 
"consistent with the Ethiopian government's prior positions" that talks be 
mediated by the AU and be held without preconditions. The statement, however, 
does not give details about who might attend.

   A diplomat in Addis Ababa said the African Union was still waiting for a 
response from the Tigray side. The spokesman for the Tigray forces, Getachew 
Reda, could not immediately be reached. Another member of the Tigray 
negotiation team, Tsadkan Gebretensae, told a U.S. think tank last week that 
"we have agreed on an African-led process, but that should not be carte blanche 
for the AU to impose what should be a peace process."

   The diplomat in Addis Ababa also said representatives from the European 
Union, the United Nations and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on 
Development are expected to attend the talks as observers in support of the 
AU's mediation team. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because they 
were not authorized to speak publicly.

   The letter from the chair of the AU Commission says the AU-convened talks 
would be "aimed at laying the foundation for a structured and sustained 
mediation" between the two sides toward a "durable resolution of the conflict."

   The AU letter says the talks would be facilitated by AU special envoy and 
former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo with the support of former Kenyan 
President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African Deputy President Phumzile 

   The talks come more than a month after fighting in Tigray renewed following 
months of relative calm. Forces from neighboring Eritrea, allied with 
Ethiopia's government, are again joining the fighting in what Tigray forces 
have described as a large-scale offensive.

   On Tuesday, an airstrike hit the Tigray town of Adi Daero where displaced 
people were sheltering, a humanitarian worker who visited the site afterward 
told the AP. They described the scene as "total carnage" and said health 
workers reported more than 50 people killed. The worker spoke on condition of 
anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

   The Tigray region has been largely cut off from the world since the war 
began in November 2020, with more than 5 million people without basic services 
including electricity, phone, internet and banking. Medicines have run 
desperately low. On Thursday, the U.N. said trapped staffers were finally able 
to rotate out of the region for the first time since the fighting renewed.

   The fighting also has spilled over into Ethiopia's neighboring regions of 
Amara and Afar as Tigray forces have tried to pressure the government, putting 
hundreds of thousands of other civilians at risk.

   United Nations-based investigators have said all sides have committed abuses.

   Tsadkan, the Tigray negotiation team member, said last week that Tigray 
representatives had met three times with Ethiopian authorities -- in Djibouti 
and Seychelles -- and he thanked the United States government for organizing 
the meetings, which he said produced a "clear proposal for a cessation of 
hostilities." But after that, he asserted, the Tigray side was "betrayed." He 
didn't give details.

   The Tigray authorities seek unfettered access for humanitarian aid, the 
resumption of basic services, respect for constitutional boundary arrangements 
and the withdrawal of foreign forces, Tsadkan said.

   The Tigray authorities "will accept whatever comes out" of an impartial, 
agreed-upon peace process, he said. He didn't immediately respond to questions 

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