After 19 months of fighting Tigrayan separatists, the Ethiopian government says it is exploring holding talks with them in a bid to end the violence.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made the possibility public Tuesday, telling parliament "Regarding the peace...a committee has been established, and it will study how we will conduct talks."
This committee, headed by Deputy PM and FM Demeke Mekonen, is said by Reuters to have 10-15 days to sort out the structure for Tigrayan talks.
The public announcement followed rumors that the two sides were already engaged in discussions, to which Abiy said "Peace isn't something you hide," adding "Secret negotiations have no substance."
On the other side of the potential talk able, Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda said his people are ready to take part in what he termed a "credible, impartial, and principled" discussion leading toward peace.
Once a rebel army, the TPLF was a political force in Ethiopia for years until Abiy's rise to the PM post in 2018 cut their hectarage to only Tigray.
Fighting broke out in November 2020 in Tigray, then spilled over into nearby Amhara and Afar in 2021.
The United Nations said the conflict put hundreds of thousands of people at risk for famine, and more than nine million people needing food aid. It also displaced more than two million.
Eritrean troops came into the battle on the side of Addis Ababa. Then, in mid-2021, both withdrew most of their forces from much of Tigray. Addis declared a cease-fire in March.
To the TPLF, its control of western Tigray is non-negotiable, saying recently "Any lasting solution of the current crisis must be predicated on the re-establishment of the prewar status quo ante."
It demands "the complete and verified withdrawal of all invading forces from every square inch of Tigrayan territory."
Independent NGOs have reported significant human rights violations, including mass rapes and massacres, attributed to both sides. Addis has denied any such actions.