The Africa Union-brokered peace talks between the Ethiopian government and rebel Tigrayan forces, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), started Tuesday in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told reporters.
Mr Magwenya said the talks will end on the October 30, 2022.
He said the talks "have been convened to find a peaceful and sustainable solution to the devastating conflict".
The African Union (AU) Tuesday issued a statement signalling the start of the talks.
“The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat is pleased to announce the launch in South Africa of the first direct talks between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, as part of the ongoing AU-led process to support the parties find a political solution to the conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia,” the statement said.
Mr Mahamat thanked the government of South Africa for agreeing to host the peace talks.
“The Chairperson is further encouraged by the early demonstration of commitment to peace by the Parties and to seek a lasting political solution to the conflict in the supreme interest of Ethiopia,” said the AU statement.
Delay to start
The talks were supposed to start on Monday but were delayed for a day after the Ethiopian government delegation failed to arrive on time.
Credible sources from Addis Ababa told The EastAfrican that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen, who chairs the government delegation did not travel to South Africa along with his team on Monday night.
By early Tuesday, it was not yet clear if he had travelled and arrived at the venue as the talks started.
Mr Magwenya said that South Africa, as a host nation, will serve and extend all the necessary assistance for the ongoing peace talks.
"As a country committed to the Africa Union's objectives of silencing the guns, South Africa is ready to provide assistance," he said.
The spokesperson added that hosting such peace talks was in line with South Africa's foreign policy objectives to secure a conflict-free continent.
The AU, along with the UN and US, has for months been putting pressure on the Ethiopian federal government to sit down for talks with Tigrayan leaders in a bid to end the nearly two-year long bloody conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.
The US is said to have played a major role in the start of the first ever direct talks being held since the conflict between Tigray Defence Forces and the federal government broke out in November 2020.
US and UN diplomats are also attending the talks, diplomatic sources told The East African.
It is not also clear if the two sides had agreed on an agenda prior to sending their delegations.
The six-day talks are being facilitated by AU Horn of Africa envoy and Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo, supported by Kenya's former president Uhuru Kenyatta and South Africa's former vice president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said Mr Magwenya.
The talks come as the Ethiopian federal government forces and their allies in the Eritrean army seized key towns in Tigray in offensives aided by heavy shelling which is forcing thousands of civilians to flee.