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Ethiopia’s Perilous Path to Peace

A recent peace deal could bring critical humanitarian relief after nearly two years of war.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Ethiopian government and TPLF leaders shake hands.
Ethiopian government and TPLF leaders shake hands.
Field Marshal Berhanu Jula (left), chief of staff of Ethiopia’s armed forces, shakes hands with TPLF Lt. Gen. Tadesse Werede (right) as former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (center left) and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (center right) applaud in Nairobi on Nov. 12. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Ethiopia’s fragile peace deal, U.S. President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and an Iranian protester’s death sentence

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Ethiopia’s Fragile Peace Deal 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Ethiopia’s fragile peace deal, U.S. President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and an Iranian protester’s death sentence

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Ethiopia’s Fragile Peace Deal 

Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have agreed to grant unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray, potentially bringing relief to millions of people who have been on the verge of famine due to a grinding blockade that has prevented the entry of aid.

The Ethiopian government and the TPLF’s latest commitment builds on a truce that both parties signed on Nov. 2, nearly two years into a disastrous war that killed as many as half a million people and displaced millions more. The agreement was widely seen as a breakthrough and potential glimmer of hope in the conflict—although many political hurdles could threaten its success.

The durability of the deal will be especially consequential for Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the effects of the war and an unrelenting government blockade have pushed millions of people to the brink of starvation. Alongside fuel shortages and severed water supplies, the region has also been largely disconnected from electricity, internet, and banking networks.

Under the agreement, Tigrayan forces have 30 days to completely disarm, a process that is set to begin on Nov. 15, Reuters reported. The Ethiopian government will assume control of highways and airports as well as preside over the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle.

Given these conditions, the deal was seen as a triumph for Ethiopian authorities, the New York Times reported, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared that “Ethiopia’s peace proposal has been accepted 100 percent.”

But after roughly two years of brutal fighting and reports of sexual violence and ethnic cleansing, experts said it might be challenging for Tigrayan fighters to accept such conditions.

“These will be difficult terms for Tigrayans to swallow,” tweeted Alan Boswell, director of the Horn of Africa Project at the International Crisis Group. “Due in part to anger at this TPLF deal, the risk of intra-Tigray feuding is high and needs to be closely watched.”

Another issue is how the Eritrean government will respond. Despite playing a dominant military role in the war and supplying countless troops to fight alongside Ethiopian forces, Eritrea was not explicitly mentioned in the agreement, raising questions about whether it might seek to disrupt the already tenuous peace process.

In Foreign Policy, Mohamed Kheir Omer, a former member of the Eritrean Liberation Front, argues that Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki—a long-standing foe of the TPLF who “views this conflict as a zero-sum game”—could undermine the agreement.

“All parties interested in seeing this peace agreement succeed must be cognizant of the spoiler role Isaias has played in the past in the Horn of Africa—and the risk that he could do it again,” he writes


The World This Week 

Monday, Nov. 14: U.S. President Joe Biden meets Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Tuesday, Nov. 15: Biden meets new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, to Wednesday, Nov. 16: Indonesia hosts the G-20 summit. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16: Biden meets new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel meet with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Friday, Nov. 18: Morocco celebrates its Independence Day.


What We’re Following Today

Biden meets Xi. Biden will meet Xi today for their first in-person talks of Biden’s presidency; the annual G-20 summit kicks off tomorrow in Bali, Indonesia. Over the weekend, Biden said he is looking to draw “red lines” amid a period of high tensions and deteriorating relations. 

Biden also said the Democrats’ recent Senate win after the midterm elections bolstered his position ahead of the meeting. “I know I’m coming in stronger, but I don’t need that. I know Xi Jinping,” he said. “I’ve spent more time with him than any other world leader. I know him well. He knows me.”

Istanbul bombing. Turkey accused Kurdish groups in northern Syria of orchestrating a bomb attack on one of Istanbuls busiest streets on Sunday. The blast killed at least 6 people while injuring at least 79 individuals. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag pointed to a female suspect, telling reporters that “a woman sat on a bench there for 45 minutes,” just before the explosion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogans press chief, Fahrettin Altun, suggested that the attack could affect U.S.-Turkish relations, hinting that Washingtons support for certain Kurdish groups was an obstacle to stronger bilateral ties. “The international community must pay attention,” he said. “Terror attacks against our civilians are direct and indirect consequences of some countries’ support for terror groups. They must immediately cease their direct and indirect support if they want Turkey’s friendship.”

Iran’s crackdown. Iranian authorities have sentenced a demonstrator to death while five other protesters face prison terms, according to state media, as Tehran scrambles to stamp out dissent and crush protests that have roiled the country. In just Tehran, officials have reportedly unveiled charges against at least 1,000 people. 

As Tehran adopts harsher measures in its crackdown, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights nongovernmental organization estimates that at least 326 people have died, including 43 children. 


Keep an Eye On 

Mexico’s forceful protests. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposed constitutional changes to transform the Instituto Nacional Electoral, Mexico’s electoral body, on Sunday. Protesters warn that he may be attempting to tighten his grip on power and weaken the country’s democracy.

UAE influence operations. A new U.S. intelligence report outlines how the United Arab Emirates—a longtime U.S. partner—has both legally and illegally attempted to influence U.S. politics and policy toward the Middle East, the Washington Post reported. The UAE’s efforts varied from known influence campaigns to ones that “more closely resemble espionage.”


This Weekend’s Most Read

Crypto’s Boy King Got Dethroned Overnight by David Gerard

How Eritrea Could Derail the Ethiopian Peace Deal by Mohamed Kheir Omer

Biden’s Team Is Dangerously Messing in Bosnia’s Politics by Jasmin Mujanović


Odds and Ends 

Humans aren’t the only ones who head to the dance floor when a catchy song plays: Rats will also rhythmically bob their heads when listening to a beat, according to new research published in Science Advances. In the study, scientists played Mozart, Lady Gaga, and Queen to 10 rats and then monitored their head motions. 

“Rats displayed innate—that is, without any training or prior exposure to music—beat synchronization,” Hirokazu Takahashi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, told the Guardian. “Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition.”

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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