Ethiopia: PM - Eritrean Troops to Leave Tigray

Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in the country's northern Tigray region, rest and cook meals near UNHCR's Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan.

Eritrean troops have faced increasing pressure to leave the Tigray region after accusations of serious rights abuses. After denying reports of their presence for months, Ethiopia has now said troops will be leaving.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced that neighboring Eritrea would pull its troops out of the conflict-ridden Tigray region.

Abiy's statement on Friday followed a visit to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. Troops from both the Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces have been accused of carrying out abuses against the civilian population in the border region.

In his statement published on Twitter, Abiy said that following his discussions on Friday with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, "the government of Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border."

Abiy first acknowledged the presence of Eritrean forces in the region on Tuesday after months of rejecting reports from residents, diplomats and even some military officials.

What were Eritrean troops doing in Tigray?

Abiy sent troops into Tigray on November 4, after accusing the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of attacking an Ethiopian military camp.

The TPLF was once the dominant party in Ethiopia and carried out an extended war with neighboring Eritrea. Abiy brokered a peace deal with Asmara in 2018, an act for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Abiy has since been accused of siding with Eritrean forces to pursue the now fugitive leaders of the TPLF.

Witnesses have claimed that Eritrean troops were present in Tigray from the start of the conflict, contradicting Abiy's account.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both accused Eritrean soldiers of carrying out a massacre of hundreds of Tigrayans in the town of Axum.

Ethiopian forces have also been accused of abuses. Doctors Without Borders claimed that soldiers had carried out summary executions in Tigray.

Some 6 million people in the Tigray region have been largely cut off from the world during the conflict. The UN human rights office said it was only recently allowed back in to support investigations into human rights abuses.

Biden pushes to end the conflict

Abiy claimed victory over the TPLF in December, but the United States and United Nations have both reported continued clashes.

The US has been calling on Eritrean troops to leave the area for weeks, and the Biden administration ramped up the pressure by dispatching Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia nearly a week ago for talks with Abiy.

Abiy did not say how many Eritrean troops had been present in Tigray, but witnesses have estimated the number to be in the thousands.

The Ethiopian prime minister's statement concluded by promising to "continue strengthening [the] bilateral relations and economic cooperation ambitions" between Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as "restoring trust-based people-to-people relations among our citizens in the Tigray region."

ab/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)

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