A body charged by the Ethiopian government to look into possible peace negotiations with Tigrayan rebels has held its first meeting, a top aide to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.
The seven-member committee, headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, “has started work,” Redwan Hussein said on Twitter after Tuesday’s meeting.
“It has decided on its internal workings and ethics for the discussion which will be led by the African Union,” said Redwan, who is Abiy’s national security adviser.
Abiy last month for the first time raised the prospect of possible peace talks with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) to try to end the brutal conflict that erupted in northern Ethiopia in November 2020.
His ruling Prosperity Party insisted in June that any negotiations could only be led by the African Union (AU), a stance rejected by the rebels.
The TPLF has voiced concerns about the “proximity” of the AU's envoy, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, to Abiy and said it wants any talks to be under the auspices of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Aside from Demeke and Redwan, the committee comprises Justice Minister Gedion Timotheos; National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) director general Temesgen Tiruneh; military intelligence chief General Berhanu Bekele; Prosperity Party official Hassan Abdulkadir; and the deputy president of the Amhara region which neighbours Tigray, Getachew Jember.
Fighting has eased in northern Ethiopia since a humanitarian truce was declared at the end of March.
But Tigray remains in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, lacking in food, fuel and essential services, according to aid agencies.