The government of Ethiopia has named seven negotiators for peace with Tigray rebels.
The team was publicised on Monday, June 27 after the Central and Executive committees of the ruling Prosperity Party held meetings on the crisis in the northern part of the East-African nation.
According to a government Press Agency, the team would be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.
The other members include Minister of Justice Gedion Timothewos, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Service Temesgen Tiruneh, Ambassador Redwan Hussine, security adviser of the Prime Minister Lt-Gen Berhanu Bekele, Ambassador Hassan Abdulkadir and Dr Getachew Jember.
According to Dr Gedion, the party will pursue peace” in a manner that respects the constitution and national interest,” facilitated by the African Union.
There was no immediate comment from Tigray leaders following the announcement.
At a parliamentary session on June 14, Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed announced that his government had set up a team to negotiate with the Tigray rebels in a bid to end the 18-month-old bloody conflict in the north.
In response, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said it was ready for a “credible, impartial and principled peace process that engages with the parties in a serious, inclusive and considered manner.”
Tigray regional President and TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said they would send a high-level delegation to the talks to be convened and hosted by the government of Kenya.
Since November 2020 when the conflict erupted in Tigray, the lives of thousands of people have been claimed and it has resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis, subjecting 90 percent of Tigrayans to famine-like conditions.
TPLF chief Debretsion, in an open letter to regional and international peace partners recently, said: “The Government and People of Kenya have demonstrated, over the years, their impartiality, honesty and solidarity towards Ethiopia, and their commitment to the norms and principles of the African Union.”
“On this basis we hold firm to the existing agreement among the parties to meet in Nairobi for negotiations hosted and facilitated by the President of Kenya.”
The recent agreement by the warring sides to hold direct talks has opened a window of hope for an end to the civil war.
However, contentious issues like the disputed land in West Tigray and whether the Tigray Defence Force remains armed could be a stumbling block to a quick resolution.
This far, Tigrayan leaders have stressed that any lasting resolution must be predicated on the reestablishment of the pre-war status quo.
“The status of Western Tigray is not up for negotiation,” TPLF said recently.
“Western Tigray remains non-negotiable. Any suggestion that our position has changed has no merit. The Government of Tigray remains committed to liberating it, peacefully or otherwise.”
TPLF has also demanded a referendum and refused to disarm.