Abiy’s efforts to block external supplies to TPLF attract Mideast powers to conflict

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The desire by the Ethiopian government to seal off external access routes for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has attracted Middle East rivals to the Tigray war, adding outside influence to the year-long conflict.

This week, the TPLF, once a ruling party in Ethiopia but now considered a terrorist group in Addis Ababa, wrote an open letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, accusing three Middle Eastern powers of supplying arms to the Ethiopian government.

Debretsion Gebremichael, the TPLF leader, said UAE, Iran and Turkey were party to the conflict by arming Addis with weapons and drones.

He demanded that the three be advised to “cease supplying weapons to the federal government of Ethiopia” because “these weapons are used to attack civilians and civilian targets in total violation of international humanitarian law and their use is escalating war and further destabilising Ethiopia.”

The accusation was the first direct finger pointed at an external entity contributing to the war. The trio denies fuelling the war, although Turkey has in the recent past offered to mediate in the conflict, even though it also reached various bilateral agreements with Ethiopia on defence and security cooperation.

The three countries, plus other Middle East countries have in the past been biggest donors to humanitarian aid to conflict regions in the Horn of Africa including Sudan. For the TPLF, supply of arms constitutes fuelling the war, regardless of whether the supply has been under formal arrangements.

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