A senior U.S. official said Saturday that Eritrean troops are still in Ethiopia although they have moved back the border, contradicting Ethiopian authorities who say the Eritreans have already left.
Eritrean troops fought alongside the Ethiopian military and allied militias in the two-year conflict that pitted the Ethiopian government against rebellious forces in the northern region of Tigray.
In November, however, the Ethiopia government and the Tigray forces signed an agreement to end the hostilities. That agreement mandated the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Tigray.
“With respect to Eritreans we understand they have moved back to the border, and they have been asked to leave,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a news conference during a visit to the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
She did not provide any evidence or source for this assessment. Eritrea’s information minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.
The Tigray war, which begun in November 2020, resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and forced millions to flee their homes. The possible continuing presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray thus has been seen as a key obstacle to effective implementation of the deal.
A senior Ethiopia military officer briefing foreign officials on Saturday denied there were any Eritrean troops in the country.
“There is no other security force in the Tigray region except the FDRE Defense Forces,” Major General Teshome Gemechu said, using an acronym for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
A spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces, Getachew Reda, dismissed claims that the Eritrean troops had left Tigray and said “thousands” were still there.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, Redwan Hussein, national security advisor to the prime minister, and Colonel Getnet Adane, spokesperson to Ethiopian Army also did not respond to requests for comment on claims by Thomas-Greenfield and Getachew.