he warned the process would be hard and painful but stressed his unwavering commitment to get us citizens out of afghanistan. he also said the taliban had been cooperating. the taliban itself has said that hundreds of its fighters are heading for the panjshir valley north of kabul, because local leaders had refused to hand it over peacefully. the region's powerful militia leaders say they're ready to talk as long as the taliban formed an inclusive, decentralised government. more than 20 people have been killed by flash floods in the us state of tennessee. rescue workers say dozens of people are missing and hundred of homes have been evacutaed, after record—breaking rain—fall sent floodwaters surging through the region. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk.
welcome to hardtalk. months of conflict in northern epo beer have cost thousands of lives and brought hunger and fear to millions. — ethiopia. last year, president abiy ahmed's government seemed confident in shutting down two forces. now, that he has made. rebels stand accused of horrifying war crimes. my guest is ethiopia's attorney general, gedion timothewos. it is his government leading the country to disaster?
gedion timothewos, in addis ababa, welcome to hardtalk. it is a pleasure to have you. when we last spoke to each other, about nearly nine months ago, you seemed very confident that your government was about to crush the forces of the tigray�*s people's liberation front. are you now prepared to say your government's strategy has gone disastrously wrong? we have issued a statement saying we can retake mekele and will finish the operation within three weeks. we established a new administration, we invested in
rehab tigray. it was a conflict that was forced upon us. it was not a conflict we got into by our own volition and willingness. that is how we see the situation.— that is how we see the situation. ., ., �* ., , situation. you haven't answered my question. — situation. you haven't answered my question, because _ situation. you haven't answered my question, because since - my question, because since then, and your forces my question, because since then, and yourforces did take mekele, since then things have gone very wrong. your forces left mekele injune, and since then the tigray�*s rebel forces have taken much of tigray from your national army but also moved into the neighbouring regions. they hold much more territory now, so what has gone wrong? territory now, so what has gone wron: ? ~ ., wrong? when we were holding mekele and — wrong? when we were holding mekele and when _ wrong? when we were holding mekele and when our - wrong? when we were holding mekele and when our forces i wrong? when we were holding i mekele and when our forces were in tigray, they were constant issues raised about humanitarian access, the humanitarian access, the humanitarian situation. we
wanted to improve the humanitarian situation, and we were also concerned by the fact that the tigray is sending waves and waves of civilians against our dreams. there was an extensive use of child soldiers. underthese soldiers. under these circumstances to soldiers. underthese circumstances to mitigate and minimise the humanitarian cost and suffering, we did the responsible thing. we declared a unilateral ceasefire and we withdrew troops from mekele. unfortunately, they continued with our belligerence and escalated the conflict, expanding at —— expanding to regional areas. and committing atrocities to civilians. ~ ., civilians. we will get to the issue of gross _ civilians. we will get to the issue of gross atrocities - civilians. we will get to the issue of gross atrocities in | civilians. we will get to the | issue of gross atrocities in a minute, you told is that you are concerned about the humanitarian situation. it is hard for me to understand the
way to this very day you and your government are maintaining a siege, a blockade of tigray which involves cutting off electricity, telecommunications, banking and financial services — something which the un and other aid agencies says is materially affecting hundreds of thousands, millions of people. when we declared the humanitarian unilateral ceasefire, we start with humanitarian corridor. it was the tigray people's liberation front date turned this corridor into a conflict zone. mb? front date turned this corridor into a conflict zone. why don't ou and into a conflict zone. why don't you and the — into a conflict zone. why don't you and the blockade, - into a conflict zone. why don't you and the blockade, mr - you and the blockade, mr attorney general? ﬁgs you and the blockade, mr attorney general?- you and the blockade, mr attorney general? as i said, we had facilitated _ attorney general? as i said, we had facilitated humanitarian - had facilitated humanitarian access in that corridor. as far as electricity and other services are concerned, the companies, the corporations that provide these services, they had several of the
personnel killed in tigray while trying to repair basic infrastructure. they have been subject to attacks, so under the existing insecurities, they —— the continued aggression of tplf, it could have been a different circumstance. as far as the tigrayans go, you will know that they believe that there is no way that they can and they armed struggle until you and the blockade, and there is no sign of it ending. there are also worrying signs that your government seized the international aid agencies, the ngos that are trying to deliver help to hundreds of thousands of people facing famine in tigray. you appear to see them
as part of the problem. while one government spokesman recently described these groups as playing a destructive role, what is that supposed to mean? it is only a reference to a very small minority of organisations. the overwhelming amount of aid organisations are providing assistance to those in need. we are cooperating with them, we facilitate their work, so we don't have a problem with that. as i noted earlier, when we declared the unilateral ceasefire, our objective, our intent was for humanitarian aid to reach the people in it tigray without any hindrance. that is why we established the unilateral ceasefire. we would love to manage darien areas to move material to mekele, but the continued aggression from that
tplf created a situation where ground that is making things more complicated. i think people watching and listening to this will find hard to understand that while hundreds of thousands of people in the north of your country are facing the imminent threat of famine. hundreds of thousands have been displaced, are currently living in camps. you and your government have suspended the operations of various aid organisations, including the holland branch of doctors without borders, and a refugee cancel. why have you done that. you have to understand that all organisations providing help need to respect our rules and regulations. as i mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of humanitarian organisations have no problem
with this, and they continue to provide assistance and aid. these organisations are trying to keep people alive and you are stopping them operating. that is not the case. there has been administrative measures, and this should allow compliance with appropriate regulations, as i have stated earlier — several organisations, in the hundreds, they are operating all over the country, providing assistance for those in need. we don't have a problem with working with them. we have a very constructive relationship. we are also in consultation, in dialogue these individuals you mentioned, and we believe that we will be able to rectify the violations very soon and would be able to reinstate their license. you are ethiopia's attorney general. have you read the
report from the university in belgium that went forensically through lists of people named individuals who have been killed, civilians who have been killed, civilians who have been killed in the fighting and it tigray? they have come up with 2562 civilians who died in 232 incidents, which the university researchers are calling massacres in tigray over the last several months. have you read that report? what have you done about it? we take all such allegations seriously, and we look into it. we are conducting investigations, we are committed to ensuring accountability. the government of ethiopia does not condone any such violations, and as we have tried to communicate to the public previously, we have
conducted several investigations, several are under way, and wherever we identify perpetrators to the extent that we find these kinds of reports credible, we make sure that we take major accountability. amnesty international have released a report this month, again, using more than 60 testimonies from eyewitnesses, which they say provides overwhelming evidence of systematic sexual abuse, rape, and other terrible forms of sexual abuse carried out by ethiopian army forces in tigray since the beginning of this conflict. when you talk about justice and accountability, what have you done about that? we are conducting and we have conducted investigations. using we are holding several of our own assault responsible. these sorts of things we take
seriously. we do not condone this type of behaviour, we do not condone these types of human rights violations, but i should point out that some of the reports you have mentioned, there is a tendency to sensationalise, there is a tendency to draw very sweeping conclusions that are not supported by the extent of the investigation. some of them have also adapted methodologies. be that as it may, as i said earlier, most to our civilians, militaries, we have conducted investigations. i find have conducted investigations. ifind it have conducted investigations. i find it hard to believe your government is taking these allegations seriously when one of your own spokespeople described the amnesty international report as nothing more than a sensational — sensationalised attacks and smears. if you are serious
about these terrible allegations, which involve accusations of victims being held in captivity for days and being systematically raped, some being handed overfor sexual slavery, some being raped in front of the children — if you took these accusations seriously, you would have dozens and dozens of members of your armed forces behind bars right now. as i've said, these kinds of matters are matters we take seriously. yes, they could be sensationalised reports drawing exaggerated conclusions, but we take them seriously. we have conducted investigations, and dozens of our soldiers have been sentenced to serious, serious penalties, some including to life in prison. how many? i am more than certain. 0ur actions speak for itself.
in addition to this, i want to point out that the defence force is a fighting force, it is a force that has a long track record of serving within the un framework, going back as far as the korean war and to several parts of the continent. its reputation for discipline, for integrity is there for all to see. i am sorry, mr attorney general, but if you are telling me more than 30 soldiers have been convicted of the most serious sexual crimes in the course of this conflict over the last few months, there is clearly something much deeper going on. how many senior commanders of the ethiopian military have been fired and held to account for what they meant i doing? because this isn'tjust a one off, this is systematic. if you're either
international report, that is quite plain. we don't agree with their conclusion that this was systematic. they have conducted their report, they investigation remotely. they have relied on what they call community workers. we are very sceptical of who those community workers might be. we conduct our investigations on the ground, and as far as accountability is concerned, our commitment, our seriousness has been demonstrated by the fact that we have allowed the un high commissionerfor human rights to conduct a joint investigation into whether human rights commission. 0nly investigation into whether human rights commission. only a government that is transparent, is committed to the highest standards and values would allow to permit this kind of scrutiny. to
allow to permit this kind of scrutin . ., allow to permit this kind of scrutiny-— scrutiny. to the “oint investigation h scrutiny. to the joint investigation and . scrutiny. to the joint| investigation and the scrutiny. to the joint - investigation and the un scrutiny. to the joint _ investigation and the un human rights commissioner is involved and she says she takes the amnesty international report very seriously. but there is another profound problem here. you are the attorney general of ethiopian and some of these allegations of the most extreme sexual violence come as allegations directed to eritrean troops operating at the invitation of your government on your territory. you have no ability to deliver justice and accountability for the crimes committed by eritrean troops, do you? regardless of who the perpetrators may be, our responsibility and our position is that we conduct investigations, we established the fact. if there are individuals who are out of our jurisdiction there are established protocols to seek international legal cooperation international legal cooperation in collaboration with authorities that have jurisdiction in their countries. so it is a process
thatis countries. so it is a process that is under way and we work with countries on these issues so i think it is too early to jump so i think it is too early to jump to conclusions and i say that based on our actions and our conduct so far our commitment to accountability is very clear. and i must also point out that we are rather disappointed and a bit dismayed by the fact that several atrocities that have been perpetrated by the terrorist people including —— against people including —— against people including —— against people including children is not being denounced not being looked into by international humanitarian and human rights organisations. if humanitarian and human rights organisations.— organisations. if you had watched _ organisations. if you had watched my _ organisations. if you had watched my interview i organisations. if you had i watched my interview with organisations. if you had - watched my interview with the spokesman for the tpl f you would know that i went into great detail. i
would know that i went into great detail.— great detail. i would like to acknowledge _ great detail. i would like to acknowledge that - great detail. i would like to acknowledge that and - great detail. i would like to acknowledge that and i - great detail. i would like to acknowledge that and i do | acknowledge that and i do recognise that.— acknowledge that and i do recognise that. thank you. it is important _ recognise that. thank you. it is important we _ recognise that. thank you. it is important we challenge i recognise that. thank you. it l is important we challenge both sides in this conflict. let's return to your side, let's get back to the language being used by your own prime minister who just last month used these words to describe the tigray people's liberation front. he called them a cancer, he described them as weeds, a disease and said that they will be removed from our country. as attorney general in a climate where there are accusations of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, what do you think of the language being used by your own prime minister? , ., being used by your own prime minister? , . , , minister? the statement issued b the minister? the statement issued by the office _ minister? the statement issued by the office of _ minister? the statement issued by the office of the _ minister? the statement issued by the office of the prime i by the office of the prime minister was referring to a terrorist organisation there have been circumstances in the past in which war leaders have used similar language to refer to terrorist organisations such
as isis so, you know, given the pain and agony that the tpl f is causing to the people of ethiopian, notjust the recent massacres and atrocities it has committed but what has transpired over the past three decades, that is a sentiment that most ethiopians share. the roblem that most ethiopians share. the problem is _ that most ethiopians share. the problem is that _ that most ethiopians share. the problem is that what we see happening in the country is that, for example, in addis ababa it is plain over the last few months that hundreds of ethnic tigray people have been rounded up and detained by your security forces. we see in reaction, the american, samantha powell saying that the dehumanising rhetoric can accompany atrocities. do you understand why the
international community is increasingly by our parliament and anyone who supports or provides material assistance for sponsors this kind of organisation would have to be held accountable. the organisation would have to be held accountable.— held accountable. the tplf ha--ens held accountable. the tplf happens to _ held accountable. the tplf happens to be _ held accountable. the tplf happens to be an _ held accountable. the tplf i happens to be an organisation organised along ethnic lines are so supporters, most of its operatives or finances happen to be from one ethnic group. so sometimes some outsiders may not understand this context, this situation and the challenge we face full of so i understand where they are coming from but they also have to understand the environment in which we are operating. what in which we are operating. what do you think other—
in which we are operating. what do you think other prospects for the continued unity of your country? the leader said not long ago that trust has broken completely and it they don't want to referring to you in the government, if they don't want us why should we stay? there is a real risk of your country, your country falling apart, isn't there? it your country falling apart, isn't there?— your country falling apart, isn't there? it is not falling a art. isn't there? it is not falling apart- you _ isn't there? it is not falling apart. you must _ isn't there? it is not falling | apart. you must remember isn't there? it is not falling i apart. you must remember this is a resilient state, a resilient nation. we have overcome all sorts of challenging our long history and when we come united and i believe there is a determination and resolve to neutralise the threat we face from the tpl, we can overcome this challenge. the tplf seems to be intent on either drawing. it does not seem to be willing
to tolerate an ethiopian that it cannot dominate, that it cannot... cannot rule and that is the objective. these are not objectives acceptable to the people of ethiopian they really does not seem to be a unified addition now among all of the people of all of ethiopian. i people of all of ethiopian. i am just mindful of what ahmed said when he won a nobel peace prize in 2019. he said that we can harvest pieced dividends we must plant seeds of love, forgiveness and reconciliation in the heart and mind of our citizens. very farfrom love, forgiveness and reconciliation. your government right now seems intent on crushing the tigray rebels, eliminating the so—called cancer and that does
not sound like love, reconciliation and forgiveness to we have practised forgiveness we have is reconciliation.- forgiveness we have is reconciliation. when the administration - reconciliation. when the administration came i reconciliation. when the administration came to l reconciliation. when the i administration came to power the season transgressions of the season transgressions of the tplf were forgiven and they were given an opportunity to be part of the body politic of the ethiopian state, despite the gross and systematic human rights violations and miss rule. there are repeated efforts on the part of this government to find any solution for the differences we had. it is the tplf who triggered the conflict. the tplf who dragged us into this conflict. you must remember that. this is not a conflict that we chose, it is a conflict that we chose, it is a conflict that we chose, it is a conflict that was imposed upon us when the tplf attacked in northern area.— us when the tplf attacked in northern area. but there is no military solution, _ northern area. but there is no military solution, is _ northern area. but there is no military solution, is there? in|
military solution, is there? in the end this will have to be resolved through dialogue and compromise and, right now, your government is not talking the language of dialogue and compromise.— language of dialogue and comromise. ~ . ., ., compromise. when we declared a unilateral ceasefire, _ compromise. when we declared a unilateral ceasefire, we _ compromise. when we declared a unilateral ceasefire, we are i unilateral ceasefire, we are giving peace a chance. i unilateral ceasefire, we are giving peace a chance. i am sor , giving peace a chance. i am sorry. the _ giving peace a chance. i am sorry, the prime _ giving peace a chance. i am sorry, the prime minister. giving peace a chance. i am l sorry, the prime ministerjust told the nation that all ab bodied civilians should join the fight to crush the rebels. it is not a ceasefire when we declared, a ceasefire, the tplf expanded the conflict, went on the offensive into the regions and displaced hundreds of thousands, they have killed hundreds of civilian and under these circumstances what we expected to do? the these circumstances what we expected to do?— expected to do? the tplf r terrorist organisation - expected to do? the tplf r terrorist organisation and i expected to do? the tplf r | terrorist organisation and they made the ceasefire untenable and under these circumstances
we have a right and responsibility to defend our population and that is what we are doing. population and that is what we are doinu. , ., population and that is what we are doing-— population and that is what we are doinu. , ., ., .,, are doing. gedion timothewos we have to win _ are doing. gedion timothewos we have to win there _ are doing. gedion timothewos we have to win there but _ are doing. gedion timothewos we have to win there but i _ are doing. gedion timothewos we have to win there but i thank i have to win there but i thank you very much forjoining me from addis ababa. hello there. after the rather cloudy weather we had to contend with last week, this week does promise something just a little bit brighter. certainly it will be largely dry with some spells of warm sunshine. having said that, no heatwave on the way, temperatures will be nothing exceptional for the time of year, but the high pressure firmly building in and taking control of our weather. that is why it will be mainly
dry and settled but the winds around high pressure flow in a clockwise direction so we will pull out air down from the north and not tapping into any of this heat across parts of southern europe. so as we head through monday, we will start off with a lot of mist and murkiness and a lot of cloud around, much will break up, though, to reveal some spells of sunshine. i think it will stay a little misty and murky on some western coasts and it will be another quite grey and gloomy day across shetland. a small chance for a shower over high ground in western scotland, wales and the south—west but most places fine with light winds, some spells of sunshine so not feeling too bad. 21, 22, but maybe 2a degrees in parts of western scotland. now, as we head through monday evening, any showers that do crop up in the west will fade, it's going to be dry with clear spells but with areas of cloud but this area of cloud here may well work into parts of eastern england and perhaps into the midlands and then continue its journey westwards as we head through the day on tuesday. so it could cloud over a little bit across some parts of wales,
maybe even with the odd spot of drizzle. some misty murky weather clinging to these northern and western coasts but, elsewhere, tuesday will bring further spells of sunshine. again, the highest temperatures likely to be across western scotland, parts of northern ireland as well. up to 2a, possibly 25 degrees. wednesday, a similar sort of day, the best of the sunshine in the west, more cloud filtering into eastern areas and also this noticeable northerly wind starting to develop close to eastern coasts so that will knock the edge off the temperatures here. the highest temperatures once again out towards the west. subtle change as we head towards thursday, our area of high pressure is likely away northwards allowing this frontal system to work into the picture. not a lot of rain with that, but a lot of cloud into eastern areas and coupled with that strong northerly breeze, it is going to feel really quite cool for the eastern coast. not quite as cool further west, but even here temperatures are coming down a little as we head towards the end of the week.