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Ethiopian PM says Eritrea will withdraw troops from Tigray

Eritrea will withdraw the troops it deployed into Ethiopia’s Tigray region after a rebellion by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November 2020, according to a statement released by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 26 March.

The statement said the Eritrean deployment was provoked by the TPLF firing rockets at Asmara.

Abiy visited Asmara earlier that day to discuss the situation with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. “The government of Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border. The Ethiopian National Defence Force will take over guarding the border areas effective immediately,” the statement said.

The Eritreans clearly advanced far beyond the border into Tigray’s main population centres, where they have been accused of widespread looting and human rights abuses, including by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

Asmara has yet to confirm it has troops in Ethiopia. The Eritrean Ministry of Information said Abiy and Isaias held extensive consultations on bilateral partnerships and discussed “the vicious military attacks unleashed in the past five months” but did not report a withdrawal.

US State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter told a press briefing later on 26 March that “we’re certainly encouraged by Prime Minister Abiy’s announcement … the immediate and complete withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region will be an important step in de-escalating the conflict”.

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