Ethiopia names negotiators for looming Tigray peace process

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopian authorities have named a team of seven negotiators for possible peace talks with Tigray forces.

The announcement comes after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced earlier in June the formation of a committee to handle negotiations with Tigray's ruling party, which the government declared a terrorist group last year.

“The ruling Prosperity Party has laid out plans to settle the war in northern Ethiopia peacefully,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos told state media late Monday.

The government’s negotiating team will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, he said.

Tigray's leaders have not yet commented on the latest announcement by the federal authorities of the East African nation. But the region’s top official, Debretsion Gebremichael, said in an open letter to the international community on June 15 that his side is open to peace talks. He also warned that his group's "readiness to go the extra mile for peace must not be misunderstood as a readiness to abandon our principles from weakness or greed.”

The African Union special envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, has been traveling within Ethiopia in recent weeks as he tries to get both sides to talk.

It remains unclear where the peace talks would happen. Tigray officials have said they are prepared to meet in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, in negotiations hosted and facilitated by the Kenyan president.

Ethiopia’s deadly war in the northern part of the country has caused tens of thousands of deaths and displaced millions more.

Tigray has been mostly cut off from the rest of Ethiopia after Tigray forces re-captured the regional capital a year ago and federal forces withdrew. A truce declared by the government in March has led to a significant increase in aid reaching Tigray by road after months of deprivation.