NAIROBI (Reuters) – Eritrean forces have started withdrawing from Ethiopia’s Tigray region in the north, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said.
The United States, Germany, France and other G7 countries called on Friday for a swift, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal of the Eritrean soldiers, followed by a political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians.
In a rejoinder issued late on Saturday through the Foreign Ministry, Ethiopia said that the G7 foreign ministers’ statement had not acknowledged key steps being taken to address the needs of the region.
“The Eritrean troops who had crossed the border when provoked by the TPLF have now started to evacuate and the Ethiopian National Defense Force has taken over guarding the national border,” it said in a statement.
Fighting erupted in Tigray in early November after forces loyal to the then-governing party there – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – attacked army bases across the region. In late November, federal troops ousted the TPLF from the capital Mekelle and the Ethiopian government declared victory.
Thousands of people died in the conflict, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region. The government says most fighting has ceased but there are still isolated incidents of shooting.
Full access to the region has now been granted to humanitarian organisations, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that a joint investigation with external experts into alleged human rights violations will start soon.
“Whilst the government… honesty appreciates the concerns being expressed, it has already been too apparent that the supply of food and medicinal aid must be the crux of expressions of concerns,” the ministry said.
Reporting by Nairobi Newsroom; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Frances Kerry