The complicated issues to be discussed by United States Special Representative Jeffrey Feltman with United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt are as big challenge as one can imagine but the stakes are high for all involved. The discussion will be pointed to finding peace in Northern Ethiopia between Tigray and the Ethiopian government but will also have to include stalemates in water use agreements of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and trying to resurrect the nuclear arms treaty with Iran. While visiting the three named countries discussion involving and perhaps under the radar are also likely to go on with Israel, Eritrea, and Iran.
Saudi Arabia and UAE continue to fight a proxy war in Yemen supporting government forces against Iranian backed Houthi insurgents which seems to be stuck in constant famine and civilian death but no resolution. This could be repeated in Ethiopia if no negotiated peace comes.
The United States has maintained targets for negotiation to fruitfully begin including Tigray forces withdrawal to its borders, Eritrea withdrawal from Ethiopia, free flow of food, medicine, and fuel to Tigray and the other regions of Ethiopia. It has asked for a clear and comprehensive investigation of human rights violations including those against women in Tigray and Northern Ethiopia by all parties by an unbiased body.
The United States has considerable power to negotiate as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Iran would want to escape further sanctions which could be devastating. Egypt and Sudan are at the point of hostility to the point that they are not in a serious discussions with Ethiopia. Offering Iran a chance to re-enter markets may sway its selling of weapons to Ethiopia. The United Arab Emirates enjoys its sovereignty but its closeness with the United States is more vital then supplying Ethiopia weapons. Being good negotiators they no doubt will want some favorable concessions.
Ethiopia needs to decide if it wants to stay as a favored nation to the United States and Western democracies are move to the China, Russia, Iranian axis. With debts approaching $80 billion and no agreement in sight with China on repayment there is no doubt that many years of austerity lay ahead for Ethiopia even if it wins “victory” soon cutting its future economic development severely. Without negotiation there is a risk of civil instability going on for years with the consequent limited international interest in investing in Ethiopian development.
On the other hand Tigray will have make a promise to stay within its borders in return for guarantees of security from the United States and Western democracies. Tigray needs friends but that comes at the price of forgetting to attempt an overthrow of the Ethiopian federal government. No doubt what to do with Western Tigray will be a major contention.
In the ideal world, the GERD controversy, Sudanese-Ethiopian land dispute, and Tigray war could be tied up with less sanctions for Iran and Eritrea. Not everyone would get all they want but more war could be averted. We can only hope reason will reign over passion for all groups.
A well thought out plot for a military takeover over Tigray by a joint Ethiopian Eritrean operation was put in place months before the November 2020 North Command incident. False government propaganda says an innocent Ethiopian government who only wanted peace was “surprised” by a sneak attack on Ethiopia Northern Command on November 3, 2020.
With growing unrest and displacement of many ethnic groups in Ethiopia Abiy used the excuse of COVID19 to delay elections from their appointed time in 2020. The Tigray went ahead with their election and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front won over a 90% margin with a majority of the voting population participating. They argued that the delay of the elections in the rest of the country had rendered the government in Addis Ababa illegitimate. Ethiopia for the past year before November 2020 had been cutting the budgets to hospital, universities, agriculture and other vital functions but now decides to give a full cut off unless Tigray agrees the election is illegal.
Before Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 the situation for the Eritrean government was very rocky. They were under heavy sanctions from the United Nations for a war with Djibouti and supporting Al Shabab rebels in Somalia. Eritrea’s economy was being sustained by mining financed by Qatar interests and developed by Canadian interests bringing in about $1 billion revenue per year. However Esaias government was falling behind in interest payments to Qatar. Qatar recently filed lawsuits in the United States in excess of $300 million to claim against Eritrean assets. Additionally legal cases were building in Canada about the slave labor conditions of workers in the Eritrean mines. Esaias badly needed cash. Even though Canadian interests were mostly sold to Chinese interests 10% was kept.
In July 2018 the beginning of what would be a partnership in genocide begins. Esaias and Abiy discuss many things including the troublesome TPLF who is trouble for both of them. Also Esaias discusses the rich mineral deposits that are in Eritrea and what likely lies in the ground in Tigray. Even though the Irob people, Ethiopians, who live on the disputed border of Tigray and Eritrea do not want to be a part of Eritrea due to a long history of human rights abuses Esaias insists he wants that border area because it has potential for gold and precious stone mining. Esaias makes an offer to solve the problem that if Abiy will support his claim he will wipe out the Tigray but only for a generous payment. What exactly is in the treaty signed by the two leaders has never been fully revealed but we know that Abiy agreed to pay Eritrea a prepayment of $500 million to invade Tigray before November 2020. Abiy also agreed to reduce the protective status of Eritrean refugees who were previously given full protections. The peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia so impressed the naïve international community that all sanctions were lifted and Abiy and Esaias were given the Nobel Peace Price. Little did they know that it was not a peace deal but a plan for genocide.
We know that the Abiy government had been impatient with mining interests in Tigray for being slow to develop leading to many cancellations of mining contracts in May 2021. However following meetings with Esaias Afwerki and with the Tigray leaders out of way decided to make deals with Chinese and Canadian interests for mining in Tigray for which no benefit would come to the Tigray region. Abiy Ahmed was upset that artisanal miners from Tigray were making profits like the founder of the Sapphire Hotel in Addis Ababa whom he placed in prison.
The Ethiopian military budget which had been about $400 million suddenly rapidly increases in 2019 and 2020 before the Tigray conflict. Clearly Abiy Ahmed was anticipating and planning for war. Between November 2020 and July 2021 Abiy Ahmed reveals that he spent $2 billion which is equal to the whole of the Ethiopian government budget. Many observers noted that for the months preceding the November 2020 North Command incident there was a military build up of Eritrean forces on the Tigray border and of Amhara militia and Ethiopian National Defense Forces in Amhara selecting officers that were not Tigrayan. Amhara politicians were sounding the need to return disputed land in Western Tigray but took no action that would be legally called for to settle this dispute under the Ethiopian Constitution likely because they had been told by Abiy Ahmed that a war was coming to claim it back.