MEKELLE, 21 February 2021 – Former leaders of Ethiopia’s Tigray region have said they will participate in peace talks only if Ethiopian federal forces and other “invading forces” withdraw.

The conditions are listed in aa statement broadcast by a media outfit close to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ousted Tigray Leader Debrestsion Gebremichael - Photo

Ousted Tigray Leader Debrestsion Gebremichael – Photo

The statement does not name such forces, but in previous statements, the ousted Tigray leaders have accused Eritrean forces and Amhara forces of fighting against the TPLF alongside Ethiopian federal forces.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously denied accusations by the United States, the European Union, the TPLF and rights groups that Eritrean forces are not only fighting in Tigray, but allegations that they have forcefully deported Eritrean refugees back to Asmara.

Last week, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki denied a well-sourced article by the Associated Press that Eritrean forces were involved in the massacre of hundreds of people in the Ethiopian holy city of Axum.

Ousted TPLF leaders, who have been on the run since the region’s capital, Mekelle, came under control by federal forces at the end of November 2020 also call for an independent inquiry into ”ethnic cleansing” and the looting and destruction of property caused by the armed conflict.

Ethiopian Troops in Tigray - Photo Deutsche Welle

Ethiopian Troops in Tigray – Photo Deutsche Welle

The conditions include the unconditional release of political prisoners and prisoners of war, the dissolution of the interim administration set up as a caretaker government of Tigray and mediation by an independent international body.

TPLF leaders in hiding have said they will continue to fight and forces loyal to the TPLF effectively continue to launch guerilla-type attacks against Ethiopian forces in many parts of Tigray.

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali - Photo BBC

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali – Photo BBC

Earlier in the week, the interim authorities in Mekelle warned citizens against harboring any TPLF fighters or offering sanctuary to anyone who plans to destabilize the region.

Addis Ababa has said the conflict is over and federal forces have won, but TPLF leaders, including some of their top commanders continue to be at large and to continue to fight.

In its first reaction to the conditions Sunday, Addis Ababa said they were a non-starter, promising to hold ousted Tigray leaders responsible for crimes allegedly committed in the region.

Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict which has displaced two million people, and forced 60,000 people into refugee camps in neighboring Sudan.

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