In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray

English translation of the article published on Le Monde (leading French newspaper)

The head of the Ethiopian government had admitted on 24 March the presence of the Eritrean army in Tigray, a border region that has been plagued by fighting since November.

Le Monde, 26 March 2021

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Friday (March 26th) that Eritrea would withdraw its troops from the Tigray region. “In my March 26 discussions with [Eritrean] President Isaias Afwerki during my visit to Asmara, the Eritrean government agreed to withdraw its forces from the Ethiopian border,” he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The announcement follows the recognition on Tuesday, for the first time since the start of the military operation in Tigray, of the presence of Eritrean troops on Ethiopian soil by Mr. Abiy, who visited Asmara, the Eritrean capital, on Thursday. On 4 November, the head of the government launched a military intervention to overthrow the ruling party in this northern region of the country, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of attacking federal army bases.

Rockets on Eritrean capital

He declared victory on November 28, but fighting there continued. In his statement on Friday, he recalled that the TPLF had fired several rockets at the Eritrean capital, “encouraging the Eritrean government to cross the border with Ethiopia, prevent further attacks and safeguard its national security.” Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, added that the Ethiopian army will deploy to areas where Eritrean troops were stationed, including at the border.

Asmara’s troops reportedly played a key military role in Addis Ababa’s military campaign against Tigray forces, alongside the Ethiopian army. But they have also been seriously blamed by several human rights organizations and many Tigray residents for massacres of unarmed civilians and widespread sexual violence.

The opposition party Salsay Weyane Tigray said on Friday that any agreement on Eritrea’s withdrawal was “unnecessary” without “an international regulator to verify.” “This is another level of deception, a game they have been playing for a long time,” Hailu Kebede, the party’s foreign affairs officer, said on Twitter.

The conflict has displaced nearly one million people. Local authorities estimate that some 950,000 people have fled fighting and persecution, mainly from Western Tigray but also from the north-west and central parts of the region.

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