Peace talks to end the devastating Tigray conflict in Ethiopia have started in South Africa, a South African government spokesman said Tuesday. It is the highest level effort ever made to end two years of fighting that has killed perhaps hundreds of thousands of people.

Spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Vincent Magwenya, said the African Union-led talks that began on Tuesday should continue until Sunday. Delegations from the Ethiopian government and Tigray authorities arrived in South Africa this week. There were no immediate comments from either party.

“These talks are in line with South Africa’s foreign policy goals of a safe and conflict-free continent,” Magwenya said.

Former Nigerian President and AU Envoy Olesegun Obasanjo, Former South African Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are facilitating talks with the encouragement of the United States, whose Special Envoy Mike Hammer has withdrawn the Tigray delegation in a US Army plane on Sunday.

The conflict dramatically changed the fortunes of Ethiopian Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who went to war with his country’s northern Tigray region less than a year after receiving the award for making peace with the neighboring Eritrea. The government of Eritrea has long seen the leaders of Tigray, who led Ethiopia for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power, as enemies.

THE TIGRAY FORCES OF ETHIOPIA SAY ERITREANS THAT HEAT UP THE MILITARY OFFENSIVE

The peace talks – led by Ethiopian National Security Advisor Redwan Hussein and Tigray Forces Spokesman Getachew Reda and General Tsadkan Gebretensae – begin when Ethiopian and Eritrean allied forces took control of some urban areas. of Tigray in the last few days.

These include the cities of Axum, Adwa and now Adigrat, according to a humanitarian source who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly.

Ethiopians protest against what they say is interference by outsiders in the internal affairs of the country and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in a demonstration organized by the city administration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on October 22, 2022.
(Photo AP, File)

The Tigray region, which has over 5 million people, is again cut off from the world by renewed fighting that began in late August after months of lull in the conflict that allowed the fighters – including two of the largest armies on the African continent – to reorganize.

ETHIOPIA FORMS A BODY TO NEGOTIATE WITH TIGRAY REBELS IN DEADLY CIVIL WAR

All fighters committed abuses, according to UN human rights investigators who recently identified the Ethiopian government’s use of “civilian starvation” as a weapon of war. Tigray babies are dying in their first month of life at four times the rate of before the war cut off access to most medical care, according to an unpublished study shared by its authors with the Associated Press this month. .

The movements of the relief convoys have “remained completely at a standstill” since August 24, the United Nations said this week. “Please, government, please (the Tigray authorities), for the sake of your own people, come to a positive conclusion or at least open a channel of peace,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said on Tuesday during a visit to neighboring Kenya.

The war since it erupted in November 2020 has also spread to the neighboring Ethiopian regions of Amhara and Afar, endangering hundreds of thousands of people. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s economy, once one of the fastest growing in Africa, has suffered.

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Academics and health workers have estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by conflict and deprivation, and the United States has begun to warn of half a million victims.

“Too many lives have already been lost in this conflict,” the chairman and senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote this week with several colleagues in an open letter to the Ethiopian prime minister urging “a cessation of hostilities and a free humanitarian access before, and for the duration of the negotiations. “

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