Ethiopia on Thursday denied violating a truce reached with Tigray, meant to allow humanitarian aid to the war-torn region.
Addis Ababa was responding to accusations by Tigray leaders on Wednesday that their positions were attacked by government forces on Monday in Dedebit, western Tigray.
In a press briefing, Billene Seyoum, press secretary at the Prime Minister office, downplayed the attack allegations.
“The narrative on this rhetoric which keeps coming from the other side is no less than a mechanism to deflect from a desire not to engage in peace talks,” Billene told journalists.
“But the humanitarian truce enacted by the government is still in place.”
According to Tigray People’s Liberation Front, TPLF, the attack happened at 4pm local time and the fighters were ambushed with “with heavy artilleries and tanks” while they were engaged in their routine defensive activities.
In March, the Ethiopian government declared a “humanitarian truce” with Tigrayan forces to allow humanitarian aid into the region where millions of people are facing starvation.
Both the government and TPLF committed the ceasefire and it was hoped that this would pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in northern Ethiopia and prevent further bloodshed.
On Thursday, Addis Ababa reaffirmed that it is ready to engage in peace at any time and at any place.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government insists that any negotiations should be led by the African Union, but Tigray wants Kenya to play the leading mediation role.
Tigray leaders also insisted that suspended basic services such as electricity, banking, telecom, transport, fuel and others should be restored in Tigray before they engage in dialogue with the government.
Addis Ababa has rejected the condition saying a formal ceasefire has to be signed before any resumption of essential basic services to Tigray.
On Thursday, the seven-member Peace Committee tasked by Abiy to negotiate with Tigray unveiled a new peace proposal that it has deliberated upon and adopted.
The peace proposal is mainly three-pronged:
First, it proposes for peace talks to take place within the coming weeks without any preconditions.
Secondly, it proposes that initial talks should focus on reaching and formally signing a ceasefire agreement followed by an in-depth political dialogue leading to a lasting settlement.
Finally, it proposes for other pending issues to be addressed through the national dialogue.
Government forces have been at war with the Tigray forces since November 2020.