johannesburg, south africa - South Africa's presidential spokesman said Tuesday that the first round of peace talks on Ethiopia's Tigray region have begun.
Few other details have been released, and so far there has been no media access to the venue, at an unknown location in South Africa.
Vincent Magwenya, the presidential spokesman, told reporters that the talks, which had previously been delayed, 'started today, the 25th of October, and will end on the 30th of October."
Word of the discussions came after the Ethiopian government side and the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF, confirmed they had left for South Africa on Monday.
The talks are being led by former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, now the African Union's Horn of Africa envoy, along with South Africa's former deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Kenya's former president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The African Union Commission said in a statement that representatives of the United Nations and the United States were participating as observers.
AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said he was "encouraged by the early demonstration of commitment to peace by the parties and to seek a lasting political solution to the conflict in the supreme interest of Ethiopia.'
The statement added, "the chairperson reiterates the AU's continued commitment to support the parties in an Ethiopian-owned and AU-led process to silence the guns towards a united, stable, peaceful and resilient Ethiopia."
Fighting in Tigray has intensified over the past week, with the Ethiopian government aiming to seize the region's airports and other infrastructure. The government said Monday that its forces had "continued taking control of major urban centers in the past few days."
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced since the Tigray conflict broke out in November 2020.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for decades before being sidelined when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.
Abiy was initially seen as a peacemaker after settling Ethiopia's long-running conflict with neighboring Eritrea. That image, however, has been shattered by the war in Tigray, and human rights groups have accused both sides of atrocities.
The United States and European Union have both expressed hope the peace talks in South Africa will be successful.