ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday with what a senior Sudanese government source said was an offer to mediate in the conflict in its northern Tigray region, a proposal Ethiopia’s government dismissed as unnecessary.
Hamdok, who was accompanied by Sudanese security officials, also planned during his two-day visit to present his country’s concerns about threats to its security along its border with Tigray, the source said.
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 U.N. estimates.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared victory over the TPLF after its forces took control of the regional capital, Mekelle, on Nov. 29 and says it is restoring order in Tigray.
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.
The TPLF has said it is continuing to fight from mountains surrounding Mekelle.
Claims by both sides are near-impossible to verify because most communications to Tigray have been down since the conflict began, and because the government has restricted access for journalists and foreign aid agencies.
Abiy welcomed Hamdok at the airport in the capital, Addis Ababa, state-affiliated Fana TV reported. He later tweeted that he had had good discussions with the Sudanese delegation, “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 mediate.
“Mediate what?” Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokeswoman, said when asked by Reuters about the proposal.
“The military altercation has ceased with the command of Mekelle … The provisional administration has [been] set up and a regional council formed in Tigray.”
“Remnants of the criminal clique have fled,” she added, a reference to the TPLF.
TPLF officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ethiopia has rebuffed previous offers to mediate in the conflict, including from the African Union. It has accused the TPLF of leading a renegade administration that launched a surprise attack on federal troops stationed in Tigray on Nov. 4. TPLF leaders deny they started the conflict.
Regional experts have suggested that Sudan could use its control over key border crossings as leverage to press both sides in Ethiopia to talk. But so far there are no public signs it is doing so.
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