Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces from Tigray, which witnessed mass atrocities against civilians during the months-long conflict in the restive region.
“In our March 26, 2021 discussions with President Isaias Afwerki during my visit to Asmara, the government of Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border,” Abiy said in a statement posted to his Twitter account on Friday.
“The Ethiopian National Defense force will take over guarding the border areas effective immediately,” Abiy said.
The prime minister added that restoring “trust-based people to people relations among our citizens in the Tigray region and fellow Eritreans across the border is essential”.
The new statement does not say how many Eritrean soldiers have been in Ethiopia, although witnesses have estimated that number is well into the thousands.
Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The statement comes after intense pressure from the United States and others to address the deadly crisis in Tigray, where witnesses have described Eritrean soldiers looting, killing and raping.
Eritrean troops in Tigray
The Ethiopian prime minister earlier this week admitted for the first time that troops from neighbouring Eritrea entered its northern region of Tigray during the conflict that broke out five months ago, suggesting they may have been involved in abuses against civilians.
The admission on Tuesday comes after months of denials from Ethiopia and Eritrea, even as credible accusations from human rights groups and residents mounted that Eritrean soldiers have carried out mass killings in Tigray following the start of the Ethiopian government’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), then the region’s governing party.