Ethiopia PM holds first meeting with Tigray leaders since peace deal

Ethiopia PM holds first meeting with Tigray leaders since peace deal

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

NAIROBI - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday held his first face-to-face meeting with Tigrayan leaders since a peace deal was agreed last year, officials and state media said.

The talks were held almost three months to the day since the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) signed an agreement to silence the guns after two years of brutal war.

Abiy's national security adviser Redwan Hussein said on Twitter that the prime minister and other officials "met today and held discussion with TPLF delegation regarding the progress of the peace process."

"As a result, PM Abiy passed decisions about increasing Flights, Banking & other issues that would boost trust & ease lives of civilians," he tweeted.

State media said it was the first time Abiy had held consultations with the so-called Peace Agreement Implementation Coordination Committee set up after the November 2 signing of the breakthrough deal in the South African capital Pretoria.

The two sides evaluated "actions carried out on the implementation of the Pretoria and Nairobi peace agreements so far", the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said, referring to a followup deal hammered out in the Kenyan capital on November 12.

They also discussed issues that "need further attention," it said, adding that the meeting took place at a resort in southern Ethiopia.

The devastating conflict that erupted in November 2020 has killed untold numbers of civilians, displaced more than two million and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid.

Under the terms of the November agreements, the TPLF agreed to disarm and re-establish the authority of the federal government in return for the restoration of access to Tigray, which was largely cut off from the outside world during the war.

- Aid and services -

Since the deal was signed, there has been small-scale resumption of aid deliveries to Tigray, which has long faced dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines.

Basic services such as communications, banking and electricity are slowly being restored to the stricken region of six million people, with the national carrier Ethiopian Airlines resuming commercial flights between Addis Ababa and Tigray's capital Mekele last month.

The TPLF announced it has begun disarming, while the United States said late last month there was an "ongoing withdrawal" of troops from neighbouring Eritrea who fought alongside government forces.

But local residents and aid workers say the Eritrean army and forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara remain in parts of Tigray and accuse them of murder, rape and looting.

The United States has imposed sanctions targeting Eritrean army as well as President Isaias Afwerki's political party over its role in the conflict, with its soldiers accused of carrying out some of the worst atrocities against civilians.

Asmara was not a party to the November deals, which called for the pullout of foreign and non-Ethiopian federal government forces, but there was no specific mention of Eritrea, one of the world's most closed-off countries whose regime considers the TPLF its arch-enemy.

Access to Tigray is restricted, and it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground.

The United States has said that as many as 500,000 people may have died while African Union (AU) envoy Olusegun Obasanjo told the Financial Times last month that up to 600,000 may have been killed.

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