Ethiopia, UN strike aid deal over conflict-ridden Tigray
The United Nations (UN) and Ethiopia have agreed to allow aid into the country’s conflict-torn Tigray region, UN officials say.
UN spokesman Saviano Abreu says an assessment mission will begin later on Wednesday.
There has been no word so far from the Ethiopian government. Food and medicines are said to be running out for millions of people.
Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed in the month-long fighting between the federal army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The Ethiopian government said the regional capital Mekelle was seized over the weekend.
But TPLF soldiers said they were still fighting near the city. Thousands of people have been displaced.
In a separate development, the Ethiopian authorities said one of the most senior TPLF figures had surrendered. Keriya Ibrahim is the former speaker of the regional parliament.
The TPLF has not publicly commented on issue. The UN will have “unimpeded” access to deliver aid to the government-held areas of Tigray, news agencies report.
Abreu is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the first mission to carry out a needs assessment is starting on Wednesday after the agreement was signed this week.
“We are working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every person who needs it,” Abreu said.
Separately, a UN source told Reuters the organisation had established a logistics group with the government to ensure access.
However, the government in Addis Ababa is yet to confirm the deal has been reached.
Among those in need of urgent aid in Tigray are thousands of refugees from neighbouring Eritrea. They fled political persecution and compulsory military service.
Meanwhile, phone and internet access has been restored to parts of western Tigray. They were disconnected when the fighting began.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s military and political life for decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 and pushed through major reforms.
Last year, Ahmed dissolved the ruling coalition, made up of several ethnically based regional parties, and merged them into a single, national party, which the TPLF refused to join.
The feud escalated in September, when Tigray held a regional election, defying a nationwide ban on all polls because of Covid-19. Abiy called the vote illegal.
The TPLF sees Abiy’s reforms as an attempt to hand his central government more power and weaken regional states.– BBC