The African Union’s chief has called for an “immediate, unconditional ceasefire” in the two-year-old conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
An AU statement, released on Saturday, said Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat is “following with great concern reports of increased fighting in the Tigray Region”, and is calling for an immediate ceasefire and urging the resumption of humanitarian services.
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“The Chairperson urges the Parties to recommit to dialogue as per their agreement,” added the statement (PDF).
Ethiopian government forces have been engaged in fighting with Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels since November 2020.
The text refers to AU-led peace talks that are expected to take place in South Africa in what would be the first formal negotiations between the two sides since the start of the conflict in 2020.
No date has been fixed yet for the meeting after it was postponed, with no new date set, in early October for logistical reasons.
— African Union (@_AfricanUnion) October 16, 2022
The negotiations will be led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the AU’s high representative for the Horn of Africa, supported by former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, according to an AU invitation letter seen by Reuters.
While both sides have committed to participate in the peace effort, fighting has continued to rage across Tigray.
The AU call comes as it has been pushing for talks after fighting in Tigray renewed in August following months of relative calm as both sides accused the other of firing first and breaking a March truce.
Forces from neighbouring Eritrea, allied with Ethiopia’s government, are again joining the fighting in what Tigrayan forces have described as a large-scale offensive.
The combat first broke out around Tigray’s southeastern border but has since spread along to areas west and north of the initial clashes, with the TPLF accusing Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of launching a massive joint offensive on September 1.
The Tigray region has been largely cut off from the world since the war broke out in 2020 with more than five million people without basic services including electricity, phone, internet and banking. Medicines have run desperately low.
The region has been facing starvation as aid supply has been disrupted due to the fighting.