Panafrican News Agency

LEAD: Ethiopian Crisis: PM Abiy says Eritrea to pull out its troops from Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces from the Ethiopian border, following discussions between their two leaders in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Friday.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement that the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) will take over guarding the border areas "effective immediately".

The Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said Mr. Abiy, who is on a  two-day visit to Asmara "to explore Ethiopia’s cooperation with Eritrea", held talks with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki during the visit.

Mr. Abiy said in his statement that the two countries would continue strengthening their bilateral relations and economic cooperation ambitions.

He added: "Ethiopia and Eritrea will continue building on the spirit of trust and good neighborliness between our two countries as embarked upon in 2018. In particular, restoring trust-based people-to-people relations among our citizens in the Tigray region and fellow Eritreans across the border is essential."

Mr. Abiy said that on 4 November, 2020 the government in Tigray region, which was led by the "criminal clique" of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) "treasonously attacked" the Northern Command of the ENDF in a foiled plan to seize power by destabilising the nation.

Attacking the Northern Command where the nation’s largest weapons depot was stationed and mercilessly killing and kidnapping members of the ENDF drew the federal government into a military engagement it had been provoked into, he said.

Following the attack on the Northern Command, the TPLF fired rockets into Ethiopian cities of Bahir Dar and Gonder.

"Similarly, they fired rockets into Asmara, Eritrea, thereby provoking the Eritrean government to cross Ethiopian borders and prevent further attacks and maintain its national security," Mr. Abiy said.

Several human rights and humanitarian organisations as well as the TPLF had said that Eritrean forces were involved in fighting.

They have expressed grave concern about atrocities in Tigray, including those perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers, but these were dismissed.

In an address to Parliament on last Tuesday, Mr. Abiy admitted for the first time that the Eritreans were involved in the conflict, saying he had spoken to Eritrean officials about allegations that their soldiers had carried out atrocities in Tigray.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister said that soldiers found to have committed "atrocities" in Tigray region would be held "accountable". 

In a tweet he said: "Reports indicate that atrocities have been committed in Tigray region.

"Regardless of the TPLF propaganda of exaggeration, any soldier responsible for raping our women and looting communities in the region will be held accountable as their mission is to protect."

On Thursday, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said information it collected during its preliminary investigation into the human rights situation in Tigray indicated that over 100 civilians were killed by Eritrean soldiers in the city of Aksum.

It said it found that on 28 and 29 November 2020 "grave violations of human rights were committed" in the city.

"... in Aksum, over one hundred residents including visitors from  other parts of the country who came to mark the annual Aksum Tsion celebration and internally displaced persons from other parts of Tigray, were killed by Eritrean soldiers."

It quoted residents, families of victims and eyewitnesses as telling the EHRC investigators that “civilians were killed in front of their children, spouses and mothers”.

-0- PANA MA 26March2021