US sees 'nascent progress' in push for negotiations in Ethiopia

The United States envoy to the Horn of Africa said he has seen “nascent progress” in negotiations with Ethiopia amid international efforts to end the civil war in the country. 

“I returned from Ethiopia yesterday, and this was my second trip there in just a couple of weeks,” U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman told reporters on Tuesday. 

“And there is some nascent progress in trying to get the parties to move from a military confrontation to a negotiating process, but what concerns us is that this fragile progress risks being outpaced by the alarming developments on the ground that threaten Ethiopia’s overall stability and unity,” he added.  

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Feltman also said both sides have laid out their expectations for the talks, but there remain different opinions on which elements to tackle first. 

“Unfortunately, each side is trying to achieve its goal by military force, and each side seems to believe that it’s on the cusp of winning,” he said.  

Feltman added that Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, told him that his main goal was to remove Tigray forces from occupied areas in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, while the priority for Tigray leaders “is to break the de facto humanitarian siege that the Government of Ethiopia has imposed on Tigray since July.” 

In a statement, the Tigray external affairs offices said that “first, any peace initiative whose principal objective is to save Abiy Ahmed from imminent demise is dead on arrival,” according to The Associated Press.

The current conflict is an extension of political divisions that have long existed in Ethiopia. 

Tigray People's Liberation Front led the coalition government that was in power until 2018, when Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as prime minister.

The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian crisis and epidemic of starvation among populations living in the Amhara and Afar regions, where ongoing conflict has blocked aid.