Ethiopia says Eritrean troops started withdrawing from Tigray
A burned tank stands near the town of Adwa, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021. /Reuters

A burned tank stands near the town of Adwa, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021. /Reuters

Eritrean forces have started withdrawing from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said, following mounting reports blaming the Eritreans for human rights abuses including rape, looting and killings of civilians.

The Foreign Ministry also said full access to the region has now been granted to humanitarian organizations and urged donors to send more food and medical aid. It also announced a joint investigation with external experts into alleged human rights violations would start soon.

"The Eritrean troops who had crossed the border when provoked by the TPLF have now started to evacuate and the Ethiopian National Defense Force has taken over guarding the national border," the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, referring to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Ethiopia's main foes in the conflict.

On Friday, the United States, Germany, France and other G7 countries called for a swift, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal of the Eritrean soldiers, followed by a political process acceptable to all Ethiopians.

Ethiopia sent its troops to Tigray in November to fight against the TPLF, then the regional ruling party, which had attacked army bases in the region. In late November, the TPLF withdrew from regional capital Mekelle and the Ethiopian government declared victory.

On March 26, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement that Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Ethiopian territory along their joint border.

It came days after he acknowledged that neighboring forces had entered his country's northern Tigray region during an almost five-month war. On March 23, he described a recent upsurge of fighting against "enemies" he said were mingling with the civilian population. He did not mention Tigray specifically but the region is located in the north.

"When the junta shifted to a guerrilla force, mingled with the farmers, and started to move from place to place. We are not able to eliminate it within three months," he said in remarks in a video posted on his Facebook page.

The Eritrean side has yet to acknowledge its soldiers' presence in Ethiopia and denies responsibility for abuses there.

(With input from Reuters)

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