Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed acknowledged for the first time the presence of troops from Eritrea in the Ethiopian province of Tigray, after the outbreak of conflict there last November.
For months, the two countries denied that troops crossed the border.
Abiy Ahmed told parliament members that the Eritrean forces came, for fear of being attacked by the Tigrayans Liberation Front fighters.
The conflict began after the TPLF took control of military bases belonging to the Addis Ababa government in the region.
The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front was the ruling party in the northern region of Ethiopia, but a major dispute arose between it and my father over the future of the Ethiopian federal system, based on ethnicity, and its role in the government.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in Tigray over the past five months.
Although the Tigrayan Liberation Front was removed from power at the end of November, and my father declared that the conflict was over, fighting continues in parts of the region.
‘Any unacceptable harm’
My father, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, did not acknowledge before today the presence of Eritrean soldiers in the Ethiopian towns.
Rights groups claim that Eritrean soldiers committed atrocities in towns like Axum, including the killing of unarmed civilians, the rape of women, and the widespread looting of public and private property.
The prime minister told Parliament that Eritrea said its soldiers were working to secure the border, and had taken control of the trenches there left by the Ethiopian soldiers who went to fight.
He said he had spoken to Eritrean officials about allegations that Eritrean soldiers had committed atrocities in Tigray.
“After the Eritrean army crossed the border and was operating in Ethiopia, any harm to our people is unacceptable,” he was quoted by the French News Agency as saying.
His Twitter account added: “Reports indicate atrocities were committed in the Tigray region.”
He added, “Regardless of the exaggerated propaganda of the TPLF, any soldier responsible for raping our women and pillaging communities in the region will be held accountable, because their mission is to protect.”
To many observers, it has long been apparent that Abe struck a deal with the Eritrean president to unite forces and overthrow a common enemy, according to Will Ross, BBC Africa Editor.
Last week, the United Nations said it would work with the state-linked Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of indiscriminate killings of civilians and widespread sexual abuse.
The United States described the violence in Tigray as ethnic cleansing.
Eritrea denied accusations of violations – particularly those in the town of Axum – as “unreasonable” and “fabricated”.
At the end of November, Abe told Parliament that “no civilians were killed” during the conflict.
Communications and electricity cuts and restricted access to Tigray have slowed reports of what is happening there.