Tigray rebels say ready to cooperate with US to end conflict

Tigray rebels

Tigray soldiers arriving in Mekele on June 29, 2021.

Photo credit: File | AFP

Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), an armed rebel group which is fighting Ethiopian national army and  its allied forces in northern Ethiopia, on Saturday said it is ready to cooperate with the US government to end a nearly one year-long civil war in the horn of Africa's nation.

The group was responding to a new decree signed on Friday by US President Joe Biden which authorises broad sanctions targeting parties involved in the Tigray conflict.

"The executive order regarding the crisis in Ethiopia is a very good. It is a long overdue move against all those who have made it their vocation to kill children and innocent people in what is a text book example of genocide," said TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda.

"We in the government of Tigray are ready to cooperate with the US authorities including by facilitating or agreeing to independent investigation into allegations of any possible wrongdoing on our part," he added.

President Biden's new executive order comes as reports of large scale atrocities continue to emerge from the troubled Tigray region.

Sanctions targets

The sanctions will target the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Amhara regional administration and members of the TPLF who are responsible for exacerbating the conflict, obstructing the provision of humanitarian aid or ceasefire, and commit serious human rights abuses.

Biden's administration did not immediately impose sanctions under the new order, but it "is prepared to take aggressive action" unless the parties — including the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, and the Amhara regional government — take "meaningful steps to enter into talks for a negotiated ceasefire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access," a senior administration official told reporters.

According to US officials, the administration would impose the sanctions within "weeks, not months" should warring parties fail to bring positive developments to end the conflict.

Immediate actions

However, Biden's administration said that it might delay or lift the potential sanctions if the parties to the conflict take immediate actions to end the bloody conflict.

In this regard, Getachew said his group is keen to resolve the conflict through a peaceful settlement.

"We have always expressed our readiness to resolve this crisis through dialogue," said Getachew.

The Tigray conflict, which broke out in November last year, has claimed the lives of tens and thousands of people.

Nearly one million people are on the brink of starvation, and millions have been severely affected by the bloody civil war which spread to neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

Biden said the ongoing war in northern Ethiopia has caused great suffering and endangered the unity of the country.

The president approved the executive order after the administration has "telegraphed for months that the parties need to change course," a second senior administration official said.

Human suffering

"The ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia is a tragedy causing immense human suffering and threatens the unity of the Ethiopian state," Biden said in a statement Friday.

The US president said he is "appalled by reports of mass murder, rape, and other sexual violence to terrorise civilian populations".

Humanitarian workers were killed, banned, and harassed.  "I am shocked by reports of massacres, rapes and sexual assaults," the president said in a statement.

He said the Ethiopian Defence Forces, the Eritrean Army, the Amhara Regional State and the TPLF forces involved in the fighting had committed human rights abuses against civilians.

He added that the US was prepared to impose sanctions if there was no progress in resolving the conflict, but promised that his country would work with the international community to help Ethiopia recover from the war, reduce its debt and revitalise its economy.

"The United States is determined to push for a peaceful resolution of this conflict, and we will provide full support to those leading mediation efforts," Biden said in a statement.

Negotiated ceasefire

He stressed that his administration will continue to push for a negotiated ceasefire, an end to human rights abuses and unrestricted humanitarian access to the needy.

Biden has also called on Eritrean forces to withdraw from Ethiopia.

Last month, the US government had imposed sanctions on Eritrean army’s Chief of Staff General Philip Woldeyohannes.

A few months ago, The United States imposed visa bans on former and current officials in Ethiopia and Eritrea, military and security officials, and members of the Amhara region, both formal and informal security forces and individuals.