The Ethiopian government announced that resuming basic services in the Tigray region is not its precondition for the anticipated negotiation with TPLF.
In the weekly press briefing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Ministry’s spokesperson Ambassador Meles Alem told journalists that consultations and detailed deliberations need to be made in order to restore the basic services in Tigray.
The government’s stance is also reflected in MoFA’s weekly summary article which noted, “TPLF’s Preconditions to peace talks are not positive gestures to end the conflict peacefully”.
Both the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) expressed their readiness and will to engage in the peace talks and disclosed they have set up a committee tasked to undertake the process.
Among the basic preconditions set by TPLF for the negotiation is the restoration of basic services such as electricity, telecommunications, transportation, and banking which were terminated since the war in Tigray broke out in November 2020.
Amid the contestation between the two sides on the preconditions of the negotiation, AFP reported that the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels have had “direct engagements,” quoting the AU as the first official confirmation of such contacts between the two warring sides.
Nevertheless, Getachew Reda, Advisor to the President of Tigray, dismissed the claim saying that “the AFP story about ‘Direct Engagements’ between the Government of Tigray and the Addis Ababa regime is pure fabrication. Such engagement simply didn’t happen!”.
Speaking of the issue Getachew Reda emphasized in his briefing on June 22 that restoration of the basic services in Tigray is not a topic in the negotiation process but rather a major precondition for the negotiation. “Since the resumption of the suspended services would play a crucial role for the negotiation to succeed, we believe the problems will be resolved before the negotiation kicks off,” he said.
Intended as a precursor to the commencement of the negotiation, the respective EU and US Special Envoys for the Horn of Africa, H.E. Annette Weber and H.E. Mike Hammer, along with a diplomatic delegation traveled to Mekele on Aug 2 to encourage the peace talks.
The delegation said in its statement that the restoration of electricity, telecom, banking, and other basic services in Tigray is essential. And Tigray Regional President Debretsion provided the international community with a letter to be passed to the Government of Ethiopia providing security guarantees for those who need to work to restore services.
The Ethiopian government, however, greeted the Envoy’s undertakings in dismay saying that, “instead of working to pressure the TPLF to negotiate without preconditions, they resorted to issuing a one-sided statement—adopting the preconditions for peace negotiations demanded by the region’s rebels”.
The outset of the expected negotiation is being wrangled as the discrepancies between the government and the TPLF over the conditions of the negotiation can not be settled consensually. Among others, the main disputed conditions are the restoration of basic services in Tigray and an agreement on the body to broker the peace talk.
As the Ethiopian government insists to maintain the African Union’s peace efforts, TPLF demands the process be hosted by the Government of Kenya.
TPLF previously expressed its confidence in the regional and international partners that are facilitating the negotiations but voiced its disappointment over the African Union. “We have consistently condemned the failure of the African Union Chairperson and his High Representative to take a position consistent with their solemn obligations,” said TPLF in a statement in June.
In an effort to bridge the difference between the negotiating parties the African Union Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) decided to include the UN, EU, and the US to be part of the African Union’s committee.