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Sudanese PM visits Ethiopia to discuss Tigray fighting

Ethiopian refugees, who fled fighting in Tigray, can be seen at a refugee camp in Sudan on 24 November 2020 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]
Ethiopian refugees, who fled fighting in Tigray, can be seen at a refugee camp in Sudan on 24 November 2020 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited Ethiopia briefly on Sunday with what three senior Sudanese government officials said was an offer to broker a ceasefire in its northern Tigray region, a proposal Ethiopia said was unnecessary because fighting had stopped, Reuters reported.

Hamdok, who was accompanied by Sudanese security officials, planned to present his concerns about threats to Sudan's security along its border with Tigray during the visit, the officials said. However, Hamdok returned within a few hours from what Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had earlier described as a two-day trip.

Fighting erupted on Nov. 4 between Ethiopia's government and the then-governing party in Tigray, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and more than 950,000 displaced, some 50,000 of them into Sudan, according to UN estimates.

Abiy government declared victory over the TPLF after its forces took control of the regional capital, Mekelle, on Nov. 29. The TPLF has said it is continuing to fight from mountains surrounding Mekelle.

READ: Ethiopia to return refugees from Sudan

Accounts from all sides are near-impossible to verify because most communications to Tigray have been down since the conflict began. The government has restricted access for journalists and foreign aid agencies.

Abiy welcomed Hamdok, and later tweeted that he and the Sudanese delegation had good discussions, "during which we reached an understanding on various issues that will further augment cooperation between our two countries".

He made no mention of an offer from Sudan to broker a ceasefire or mediate the Tigray conflict.

"Mediate what?" Billene Seyoum, Abiy's spokeswoman, said when asked by Reuters for information about this offer.

"The military altercation has ceased with the command of Mekelle … The provisional administration has set up and a regional council formed in Tigray."

"Remnants of the criminal clique have fled," she added, referring to the TPLF.

Reuters has been unable to contact TPLF officials for nearly a week.

The first non-governmental aid convoy since fighting started arrived in Mekelle on Saturday, and a government-appointed transitional administration said it would take office on Sunday.

Sudan's cabinet said that Hamdok and Abiy had agreed to resume negotiations within the next week about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, an issue that has caused tensions between the two countries.

READ: First NGO aid gets to Ethiopia's Tigray, businesses to re-open

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