NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region Friday but said he is willing to speak to representatives “operating legally” there during a meeting with three African Union special envoys trying to end the deadly conflict between federal troops and the region’s forces.
The meeting occurred as people fled the Tigray capital in fear of an imminent assault after Abiy said the army had been ordered to move in for the “final phase” of an offensive to arrest the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who run the region. Abiy’s government and the regional one each consider the other illegitimate.
There was no immediate word from the three AU envoys, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano and former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe. AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo did not say whether the envoys can meet with TPLF leaders, something Abiy’s office has rejected.
The prime minister appreciated the AU envoys’ “elderly concern” and told them his government’s failure to enforce the rule of law in Tigray would “nurture a culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country,” his office said.