The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa said on Tuesday that “nascent progress” toward getting all parties to Ethiopia’s conflict into negotiations on a ceasefire is at risk of being outpaced by an “alarming” increase in military operations.
Envoy Jeffrey Feltman briefed reporters in Washington after returning on Monday from Ethiopia, where he met Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and discussed a potential diplomatic solution to the year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced millions in Africa’s second most populous nation.
Both Abiy and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party controlling the northern region of Tigray, seem to believe they are on the cusp of military victory, Feltman said, expressing concern that recent developments threaten Ethiopia’s overall stability and unity.
“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 this fragile progress risks being outpaced by the alarming developments on the ground that threaten Ethiopia’s overall stability and unity,” Feltman said.
Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda could not immediately be reached for comment.
War broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF, the ruling party of Tigray. Thousands have been killed and the conflict has since spread into two neighboring regions in northern Ethiopia.
Feltman said both sides were talking to the United States about beginning a discreet peace process, and said there is overlap on what the two sides describe as essential to reduce tensions and a negotiated ceasefire.
Although he discussed a diplomatic solution during his meeting with Abiy on his most recent trip, the Ethiopian leader expressed confidence he would be able to achieve his goals militarily, Feltman said.
Also on Tuesday, Germany joined France and the United States in urging its citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also told reporters in New York that a few hundred family members of international staff would be relocated from Ethiopia.
“Staff will remain in Ethiopia to deliver on our mandates,” he said.