By Giulia Paravicini
NAIROBI (Reuters) -Ethiopia’s government and rival Tigrayan forces said on Wednesday they have accepted an invitation by the African Union to participate in peace talks aimed at ending a two-year conflict.
The talks, slated for this weekend in South Africa, will be the first formal negotiations between the two sides since the war broke out in November 2020, two diplomatic sources said.
The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and uprooted millions. Both sides had previously said they were prepared to participate in AU-mediated talks but intense fighting has continued to rage across Tigray, a northern region bordering Eritrea.
The Ethiopian government “has accepted this invitation which is in line with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need to have talks without preconditions,” Redwan Hussein, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on Twitter.
In a statement Tigrayan forces said they had accepted the invitation, and asked for clarification on who had been invited as participants, observers and guarantors.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said last month it was ready for a ceasefire and would accept an AU-led peace process after previously raising objections to AU proposals.
Olusegun Obasanjo, the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, will lead the negotiations with support from former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, according to one of the AU’s invitation letters seen by Reuters.
No formal talks between the two sides were held during a five-month ceasefire between March and August. Fighting resumed on Aug. 24.
Abiy’s government accuses the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition until Abiy came to power in 2018, of trying to reassert Tigrayan dominance over Ethiopia.
The TPLF accuses Abiy of over-centralising power and oppressing Tigrayans. Both dismiss each other’s accusations.
(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Toby Chopra and Grant McCool)