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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Qatar urges dialogue as Tigray forces seize contested region’s capital

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Tigrayan forces later said they had seized full control of the city, describing the ceasefire as a “joke”.

Qatar has welcomed the announcement of a temporary ceasefire in war-torn Tigray, Ethiopia, as reports on Tuesday suggested forces had captured control of the region’s capital city Mekelle.

In a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MOFA], the Gulf state expressed its hope for reaching a permanent ceasefire and “for the two sides of the conflict to urgently sit start a dialogue, in order to reach a comprehensive and lasting political solution”.
The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday following an eight-month conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front [TPLF].
A day later, Tigrayan forces said they had seized full control of Tigray after pro-Ethiopia government Eritrean forces had pulled out.

“We are 100% in control of Mekelle,” Getachew Reda, spokesman for the TPLF, told Reuters.

“Our forces are still in hot pursuit to south, east, to continue until every square inch of territory is cleared from the enemy,” Getachew added, describing the ceasefire as a “joke”.

However, Reuters said it was unable to verify his comments as phone connections in Mekelle and the rest of Tigray were down. The Ethiopian government has yet to provide any comments on the alleged territory control.

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Witnesses confirmed forces were no longer seen in the area, with one resident sending a video to Reuters saying “there’s not a single Eritrean in town”.

Ethiopia’s federal government declared war on its northern region of Tigray late last year in response to  an attack on a military base housing government troops.

However, the war was seen as a build up of tensions between the two parties dating as far back as the 90’s.

Several gang-rapes and mass killings of civilians have been reported since then, with one such incident including at least 12 aid workers.

Up to 350,000 people are also facing famine and 5 million others are in need of immediate food aid, making it the worst global food crisis in a decade.

Getachew has also accused Ethiopia’s prime minister of blocking the entry of food and aid into Tigray, urging the international community to pressure the government into allowing it into the area.

While the government failed to provide any comments on the food blockages, the UN previously confirmed that soldiers stopped the entry of food into TPLF-controlled territories.

The international community has called for a ceasefire in Tigray since the beginning of the war, including the UN and the US.

Commenting on the truce declaration announced this week, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said it would be effective if it leads to steps “to end the conflict, stop the atrocities, and allow unhindered humanitarian assistance,” while calling for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Ethiopian territory.

According to Reuters, the UN Security Council is expected to further address the crisis in Tigray this week, without mentioning a specific date.


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