Ethiopian PM rejects Tigray conflict talks in African Union meeting …

Fox News:
Ethiopian PM rejects Tigray conflict talks in African Union meeting The meeting came as more people fled Tigray’s capital city ahead of a promised ‘final phase’ of the army’s offensive NAIROBI, Kenya – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region Friday but said he was willing to speak to representatives “operating legally” there during his meeting with three African Union special envoys trying to end the deadly conflict between federal troops and the region’s forces.
The meeting came as more people fled Tigray’s capital city ahead of a promised “final phase” of the army’s offensive.
Meanwhile, the number of people managing to cross the border into Sudan has slowed to a trickle, raising concerns they are being blocked from leaving.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, who has resisted international mediation as “interference,” said he appreciated the AU envoys’ “elderly concern” but 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,” according to his office.
Abiy’s government and the regional one run by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front each consider the other illegitimate.
AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo did not say whether they can meet with TPLF leaders, something Abiy’s office has rejected.
“Above all, TPLF leadership is still at large.” He called reports that the TPLF had appointed an envoy to discuss an immediate cease-fire with the international community “masquerading.” Fighting reportedly remained well outside the Tigray capital of Mekele, a densely populated city of a half-million people who have been warned by the Ethiopian government that they will be shown “no mercy” if they don’t distance themselves from the region’s leaders.
That makes it difficult to verify claims about the fighting, but humanitarians have said at least hundreds of people have been killed.
The fighting threatens to destabilize Ethiopia, which has been described as the linchpin of the strategic Horn of Africa.
With transport links cut, food and other supplies are running out in Tigray, home to 6 million people, and the United Nations has asked for immediate and unimpeded access for aid.
More than 40,000 refugees have fled for Sudan, where people struggle to give them food, shelter and care.
And fighting near camps of Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia has put them in the line of fire.
Worryingly, refugees in Sudan have told The Associated Press that Ethiopian forces near the border are impeding people from leaving.
“We cannot keep social distancing here in the camp,” said Mohammed Rafik Nasri, from the U.N. refugee agency.
And shelter is one of the biggest challenges that we have at the moment.” Scared, sometimes without word of loved ones left behind, the refugees continue to share horrific accounts of the fighting.
Meanwhile, some of the tens of thousands of refugees from Eritrea who are living in northern Ethiopia have been in the line of fire as fighting sweeps by them.
Communications and transport restrictions make it impossible to verify camp conditions, she said.
But the 96,000 Eritrean refugees “will run out of food as soon as Monday if supplies cannot reach them,” the agency said in a statement.
While traveling in western Tigray, the ICRC found a number of displaced people living in a makeshift camp without food, water or medical care.
“They told us they feared for their lives, and that they wanted safe passage out of the area.” Its statement added: “So much is still unknown on the level of violence and subsequent suffering that people in the Tigray region have endured in just three weeks.”

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