Eritrea has acknowledged its troops are participating in the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region but has vowed to pull them out amid mounting international pressure.
The first explicit admission of Eritrea’s role in the fighting came in a letter posted online Friday night by the country’s information minister, written by its UN ambassador and addressed to the Security Council.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November to disarm and detain leaders of the region’s once dominant political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
For months the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments denied Eritreans were involved, contradicting testimony from residents, rights groups, aid workers, diplomats and even some Ethiopian civilian and military officials.
Abiy finally acknowledged the Eritreans’ presence in March while speaking to lawmakers, and vowed soon after that they would leave.
Friday’s letter from Eritrea said that with the TPLF “largely thwarted,” Asmara and Addis Ababa “have agreed – at the highest levels – to embark on the withdrawal of the Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary.”
On Thursday UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that despite Abiy’s earlier promise, there had been no evidence of a promised withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region.
He also said aid workers “continue to report new atrocities which they say are being committed by Eritrean Defense Forces.”
Tigray residents have repeatedly accused Eritreans of mass rape and massacres, including in the towns of Axum and Dengolat.
Both Eritrea and Ethiopia blame the conflict on TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps in early November and describe it as a campaign to restore law and order.
Eritrean UN ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam reiterated this position in her letter Friday.
“We are indeed appalled by attempts to blame those who were forced to resort to legitimate measures of self-defense that other countries would have done under similar circumstances,” she wrote.
“The allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers is not just outrageous, but also a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people.”
Source: Arab News