World News Envoy cites 'massive progress' in Ethiopia talks

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Joyce Karam November 23, 2021 ×÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷× Jeffrey Feltman said that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wants opposition forces back in Tigray, signifies readiness for peaceful negotiation. US envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman cited on Tuesday significant movement in diplomatic talks in reaching a cessation of ongoing hostilities in Ethiopia. "There is some massive progress in trying to get the parties to move from a military confrontation to a negotiating process," Mr Feltman said in a call with reporters. He warned, however, that this progress is fragile and at risk of being outpaced by the military developments on the ground. "What I worry about is that the military developments on the ground are moving more rapidly than we've been able to get the diplomatic process to move." The US envoy said that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told him on Sunday that he wants the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) to withdraw back into Tigray. He added that the US agrees with this demand as it agrees with the lifting of the humanitarian blockade on the Tigray. "What I mostly discussed was how his goals could be achieved through the negotiating table rather than militarily," Mr Feltman said about his meeting with Mr Ahmed. "I was encouraged that he [Abiy] was willing to talk to me in detail about what a diplomatic process could look like." But he added that Abiy expressed confidence that he will be able to push back the Tigray forces militarily. "I questioned that confidence," Mr Feltman said. "I was trying to tell him what was the cost to Ethiopia's stability. The cost to the civilians, the dignity of Ethiopia has been damaged by this war. The costs are too high." He also warned the TPLF against entering the capital Addis Ababa. "The TPLF would be met with unrelenting hostility if it entered Addis today," he said. Mr Feltman returned on Monday from Ethiopia, his second trip this month to try to reach cessation of hostilities. He described a growing appetite for negotiations this time despite the public rhetoric from Abiy Ahmed to join the battlefront, and increased threats from the TPLF to continue advancing to the capital. "There is a sense of realism, that after a year of this horror, there might be other approaches to to consider in order to achieve goals." The US envoy said steps such as withdrawal by the TPLF back to Tigray, allowing humanitarian aid to the northern regions and delisting the TPLF as a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian Parliament, could pave the way for de-escalation. At the same time, Mr Feltman did not play down the risks of escalation. The US, France, Finland, Turkey, and Jordan, fearing an all-out war, have all urged their citizens to leave the Ethiopia this month. "I emphasize this may escalate further and can cause supply chain shortages, communications, black outs, travel disruptions [in Ethiopia]," Mr Feltman warned. "If commercial options became available, take the available seat on the commercial flights, now."

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