ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Rebellious Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia have said they will respect a ceasefire proposed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as long as sufficient aid is delivered to their war-scarred northern region “within reasonable time”.
The government in Addis Ababa declared the cessation of hostilities on Thursday, saying it was to allow aid to flow into Tigray.
However, it was not immediately clear how it would enforce this on the battlefield, where a mix of regional fighters and volunteer militias have been fighting the Tigrayan forces.
“The government of Tigray will do everything it can do to make sure this cessation of hostilities is a success,” the regional Tigrayan government said in a statement late on Thursday.
War broke out between Tigray’s rulers – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – and the central government led by Abiy, in November 2020.
The conflict, which later engulfed the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions across northern Ethiopia and into neighbouring Sudan.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “for the restoration of public services in Tigray, including banking, electricity and telecommunications,” a U.N. spokesperson said.
“Our teams, humanitarian supplies and trucks are ready to deliver as soon as safe and unrestricted access is guaranteed by all parties,” the U.N.’s World Food Program said in a statement.
The United Nations has said more than 90% of the 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid.
Food distribution in the mountainous region fell to a new record low this month, due to depleted food stocks, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest weekly bulletin.
The previous record low was in March last year. Only about 68,000 people received food aid in March 10-16, OCHA said.
Tigray and Amhara regions were relatively calm during the week of March 15, but armed clashes were reported in parts of Afar region, OCHA said. It did not say who was involved in the fighting.
The federal government has always said aid is allowed to enter Tigray but only a small amount has gone in since Ethiopian troops withdrew from Tigray at the end of June last year.
Tigray’s leaders have blamed federal authorities and authorities in the Afar and Amhara regions for blocking aid going into Tigray, accusations they deny.
The central government has accused Tigrayan fighters of blocking aid because they have invaded Afar, which is on the only land route currently open into Tigray.
The United Nations and the United States welcomed Addis Ababa’s declaration of a ceasefire, which followed a visit by the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to Addis Ababa this week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa NewsroomWriting by George ObulutsaEditing by Frances Kerry)