After months of denying their presence, Ethiopia said on Friday that troops from neighboring Eritrea had agreed to withdraw from the restive Tigray region amid mounting accusations of mass atrocities during a five-month conflict that has roiled the strategic Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopian troops will take over positions being vacated by the Eritrean military effective immediately, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said following a visit to Asmara, where he held talks with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Eritrea’s information ministry said that the two leaders discussed their “strategic partnership and envisioned joint trajectory.”
The development comes after weeks of pressure from the Biden administration and the United Nations. The U.S. had called for Eritrean troops to withdraw from Tigray and for Mr. Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to broker a peace deal with Eritrea after decades of war, to take responsibility for protecting all his citizens, including the ethnic minorities in that region.
It remains unclear whether the withdrawal will mark a pivot point in the conflict or is simply a tactical retreat in the face of growing international pressure. Ethiopia, a strong U.S. ally, has been stung by Washington’s opposition to the continuing conflict.
This month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced as unacceptable the ethnic cleansing and other human rights abuses he said have been carried out in Western Tigray—accusations the Ethiopian government denies. He has also called for an independent investigation into the alleged atrocities and for unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray.