United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has said there is a “real opportunity” for an end to more than 14 months of fighting between government and Tigrayan forces, following a call with the African Union’s special envoy.
Guterres’s statement on Wednesday gave no details about his conversation with Olusegun Obasanjo, which followed the envoy’s latest visit to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and the capital of Ethiopia’s northernmost region of Tigray, Mekelle.
“Mr. Obasanjo briefed me about the efforts being made by the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) to move towards a resolution of the violent conflict and expressed optimism that there is now a real opportunity for political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict,” Guterres said, without describing the efforts.
“I am delighted that after over a year of armed conflict which has affected millions of people across Ethiopia and the rest of the region, there is now a demonstrable effort to make peace,” he added.
Ethiopia’s war broke out in November 2020 following months of mounting tensions between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the TPLF, the former ruling party of Tigray.
Abiy had declared victory over on November 28, after federal forces captured Mekelle, but fighting dragged on. Within months, the tide of war turned and the Tigrayan forces eventually regained most of the territory they lost before launching counteroffensives in the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.
The Tigrayan forces withdrew into their region last month after a drone-assisted military offensive halted their approach to Addis Ababa. Ethiopian forces said they would not pursue them further into Tigray, which some in the international community saw as an opening for mediation efforts.
The fighting has killed an estimated tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.
Despite his mention of optimism, Guterres also warned that “ongoing military operations in some parts of Ethiopia remain a challenge to the peace process and sour the confidence-building measures that we hope are being taken by all parties in the conflict.”
Other combatants include soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea who are allied with Ethiopian forces and blamed by witnesses for some of the worst atrocities in the war.
Guterres called on all parties “to move rapidly towards cessation of hostilities,” and he said the UN watches the African Union-led mediation efforts with great hope.
Meanwhile, a new United States envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador David Satterfield, is set to meet Ethiopian officials in Addis Ababa on Thursday.