On October 7, Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) re-took Shire, the 2nds largest urban area in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. This was a major defeat for TPLF, whose control of the airport had allowed arms laden secret cargo flights from Sudan to bring in military equipment for the insurgents. This prompted a chorus of ceasefire cries from the insurgents’ foreign appeasers.
Once again northern Ethiopia was brought up at the UNSC on October 21, but there was no consensus among council members to issue a public statement. Nonetheless, Linda Thomas Greenfield provided the U.S position in a press briefing afterwards. Non-permanent member African states of the UNSC held their position that Ethiopia’s northern conflict is an internal issue that should be handled by Ethiopia and the African Union. Greenfield repeated the claim that Eritrean troops are actively engaged in battle yet failed to produce evidence for this.
Advances by Ethiopian forces elicited pleas for an immediate cessation of hostilities by the rebels, a position which has many sympathizers in the West, but had little acceptance in Ethiopia. On October 23, the Government of Ethiopia claimed, “it has liberated the historic towns of Axum and Adwa and was advancing fast in all direction towards Mekelle.
A series of mass demonstrations denouncing foreign interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs were held in several cities across Ethiopia as well as in the diaspora. Demonstrated demanded an African led peace process, as well as an end to the TPLF insurrection in Northern Ethiopia.
The pace of ENDF advances is causing the rebels to shed their reluctance for peace talks, as a flurry of recent statements appear to welcome negotiations without preconditions. Negotiators for the TPLF as well as the Government of Ethiopia arrived in south Africa on Sunday, October 24. Fearing for their personal security, TPLF’s delegation flew on a U.S. military aircraft, accompanied by Mike Hammer, the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa. The situation on the ground appeared to put the government in a stronger position than its opponents going into the talks, though it was under pressure from foreign powers, including the United States and European Union, to halt its offensive.