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"Peace Will Prevail!" - Ethiopia's Abiy


FILE: Ammunition is seen next to a tank destroyed in a fight between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces in Kasagita town, Afar region, Ethiopia, February 25, 2022.

UPDATED TO INCLUDE TPLF RESPONSE: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has vowed war in Tigray "will end and peace will prevail" ahead of expected talks next week aimed at ending nearly two years of bloodshed.

PM Abiy, who sent troops into Tigray in November 2020, told an audience "Ethiopia will be peaceful, we will not continue fighting indefinitely."

The AU's Peace and Security Council convened Friday and was briefed by its Horn of Africa envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, who is expected to mediate the talks in South Africa scheduled for Monday, October 24.

The session came ahead of an expected meeting Friday of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the escalating crisis. But no statement was issued due to divisions between the 15 members of the council.

Redwan Hussein, the national security adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said the government will participate in the AU-led talks from October 24 but expressed disappointment at what he called "false allegations against the defensive measures."

On its part, Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the rebel authorities in Tigray, told AFP in a text message "Our delegation will attend," when asked if they would join the table on October 24.

The AU's Peace and Security Council welcomed on Friday "mutual commitments to genuinely participate in the peace process."

In recent weeks, combat has intensified as Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean allies have captured a string of towns in Tigray, sending civilians fleeing.

The government this week vowed to seize airports and other federal sites from rebel control.

A humanitarian source told AFP on Friday that heavy fighting was underway between the cities of Shire and Axum in northern Tigray.

The spiraling conflict has spurred alarm for civilians and aid workers trapped in the war zone, and global calls for a ceasefire.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.N. Security Council and AU meetings "demonstrate the international community's great concern about the situation" and the need for violence to stop.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he also renewed calls for a resumption of humanitarian aid to Tigray, and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia.

The conflict began nearly two years ago when Abiy accused the region's dissident ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacking federal army camps.