Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces from Tigray, which witnessed mass atrocities against civilians during the months-long conflict in the restive region.
“In our March 26, 2021 discussions with President Isaias Afwerki during my visit to Asmara, the government of Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border,” Abiy said in a statement posted to his Twitter account on Friday.
“The Ethiopian National Defense force will take over guarding the border areas effective immediately,” Abiy said.
The prime minister added that restoring “trust-based people to people relations among our citizens in the Tigray region and fellow Eritreans across the border is essential”.
The statement comes after intense pressure from the United States and others to address the deadly crisis in Tigray, where witnesses have described Eritrean soldiers looting, killing and raping.
The Ethiopian prime minister earlier this week admitted for the first time that troops from neighbouring Eritrea entered its northern region of Tigray during the conflict that broke out five months ago, suggesting they may have been involved in abuses against civilians.
The admission on Tuesday comes after months of denials from Ethiopia and Eritrea, even as credible accusations from rights groups and residents mounted that Eritrean soldiers have carried out massacres in Tigray following the start of the Ethiopian government’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), then the region’s governing party.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Eritrean forces shot dead hundreds of children and civilians in a November mass killing in Tigray.
An Amnesty International investigation into the same events detailed how Eritrean troops “went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined calls for the Eritrean troops to leave Tigray while the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, urged an investigation into the situation.