US Envoy to the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer called on Saturday for progress in holding Ethiopian peace talks and the unrestricted delivery of aid to conflict-stricken areas.
According to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Hammer — who arrived on Friday — held talks with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demiki Mekonnen on “the need for continued progress in ensuring unfettered humanitarian access, accountability on human rights, and political talks to end the conflict and achieve a lasting peace.”
The government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have raised the prospect of peace talks to end the conflict that broke out in November 2020. However, significant obstacles have emerged, not least over who should mediate any negotiations.
Ahmed wants the African Union — based in Addis Ababa — to mediate any talks, while the TPLF insists that neighbouring Kenya lead the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Ahmed’s National Security Adviser Rizwan Hussein said on Twitter that the government was ready to talk “anytime, anywhere,” and that negotiations should begin “without preconditions.”
Furthermore, the Tigray television linked to the TPLF quoted leader Debrecion Gebremichael as demanding that basic services in Tigray be restored before negotiations can begin.
Fighting in northern Ethiopia has eased since a humanitarian truce was declared at the end of March, allowing the resumption of much-needed aid deliveries to the region.
The UN says more than 13 million people are in need of food assistance in Tigray and neighbouring areas Afar and Amhara, which are dealing with high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Tigray itself lacks food, fuel, and basic services, such as electricity, communications, and banks, and hundreds of thousands of its residents are living in dire conditions due to what the UN has described as a de facto blockade.
Additionally, the US Embassy said that Hammer also “reviewed” the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Project.
“We are actively working to support a diplomatic path forward under the auspices of the AU to reach an agreement that provides for the long-term needs of every citizen along the Nile River,” Hammer said during his visit to Egypt this week.