A United States envoy has said that he sees “massive progress” in talks with Ethiopia’s warring sides, but fears it will be outpaced by “alarming” military developments during the year-long war.
The warring sides are now talking about elements they expect to see on the table, Jeffrey Feltman said on Tuesday following his latest visit to Ethiopia.
“Unfortunately, each side is trying to achieve its goals by military force and believe they are on the cusp of winning,” he added.
The US envoy said the Tigray forces must halt their advance on the capital and warned that their demands might increase as they get closer.
The Tigray forces long dominated the national government before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.
On Monday, Ahmed announced he will lead “from the battlefield” in a war that has killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.
Feltman said Ethiopia’s prime minister told him he’s confident he can push the Tigrayan rebel forces back to their home region in the north of the country.
“I question that confidence,” said Feltman.
The envoy, however, said he was encouraged that Ahmed was willing to speak in detail about what a diplomatic process might look like to stop the fighting.
“There’s no sign there would be direct talks on the horizon between the two sides, nor is that necessary,” Feltman added, saying there are “a whole lot of ways to have political processes” including proximity talks.
Pressing issues include access to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigray, which has been under a government blockade since late June, and to a growing number of people in the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions where fighting has blocked aid.