Ethiopia says Eritrea has agreed to withdraw forces from the Tigray region

Eritrea has agreed to withdraw troops from Ethiopian territory along their common border, the Ethiopian prime minister said on Friday, days after acknowledging that Eritrean forces had entered Ethiopia’s Tigray region during a nearly five-month war.

“Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces from the Ethiopian border,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement on Twitter the day after arriving in Eritrea’s capital Asmara to meet with President Isaias Afwerki.

The Ethiopian Armed Forces will immediately take over the protection of the border area, Abiy said.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not return calls and text messages to comment.

Thousands of people have been killed in clashes between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigray region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which began in November.

Eritrean national security authorities said they feared TPLF attacks, said Jowharcorrespondent Maria Gerth-Niculescu.

Hundreds of thousands more people were forced to flee their homes in the region of about five million.

The government declared victory at the end of November, but fighting has continued in some areas.

The pharmaceutical agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday that its staff saw Ethiopian soldiers shoot four civilians in Tigray this week.

Abiy confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that Eritrean troops had entered Tigray during the conflict, the first recognition after months of denials.

Eritrean troops have gone further into the Tigray than just along the common border.

Reuters reporters on a trip to Tigray this month saw hundreds of soldiers in Eritrean uniforms traveling in vehicles with Eritrean signs in major cities and along the main road between the regional capital Mekelle and the city of Shire.

There are extensive reports of murder, torture and gang rape of Eritreans by civilians.

This month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he wanted to see Eritrean forces and those from the Amhara region replaced in Tigray with security forces that would respect human rights.

Blinken described actions carried out in the region as “ethnic cleansing”, accusations that Ethiopia has denied.

( Jowharwith REUTERS)