'Massive' progress in Ethiopia talks could be outpaced: US

AP , Tuesday 23 Nov 2021

A United States envoy says he sees ``massive progress'' in talks with Ethiopia's warring sides, but he fears it will be outpaced by ``alarming'' military developments in the yearlong war in Africa's second-most populous country.

Abiy Ahmed
File Photo: Ethiopia s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks behind bulletproof glass at his inauguration ceremony, after he was sworn in for a second five-year term, in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. AP

Jeffrey Feltman spoke to reporters Tuesday after his latest visit to Ethiopia, where rival Tigray forces continue pushing toward the capital, Addis Ababa, and a growing number of countries tell their citizens to leave immediately. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday announced he will lead ``from the battlefield'' in a war that has killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.

Feltman said the warring sides are now talking about elements they expect to see on the table in talks, but ``the tragedy is'' that while the elements are similar, views differ on which to tackle first.

``Unfortunately, each side is trying to achieve its goals by military force and believe they are on the cusp of winning,'' he said.

The U.S. envoy said the Tigray forces must halt their advance on the capital and warned that their demands might increase as they get closer. The Tigray forces long dominated the national government before Abiy took office in 2018.

Feltman said Ethiopia's prime minister told him he's confident he can push the Tigray forces back to their home region in the north of the country. ``I question that confidence,'' said Feltman. The envoy, however, said he was encouraged that Abiy was willing to speak in detail about what a diplomatic process might look like to stop the fighting.

``There's no sign there would be direct talks on the horizon between the two sides, nor is that necessary,'' Feltman added, saying there are ``a whole lot of ways to have political processes'' including proximity talks.

Pressing issues include access to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigray, which has been under a government blockade since late June, and to a growing number of people in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions where fighting has blocked aid.

Diplomatic efforts also are being led by African Union envoy Olesegun Obasanjo, who has not spoken publicly in recent days about his talks that have included trips to the Tigray capital to meet Tigray leaders.

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