According to Ethiopia, new talks on disarmament are starting in Tigray

NAIROBI, Kenya — A joint committee of the Ethiopian government and Tigray forces has met in the Tigray region to outline plans for disarmament in the two-year conflict as part of a peace deal signed last month, the Ethiopian government said on Thursday.

The conflict in Ethiopia has more victims than the war in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared on Thursday during his visit to the country to meet Prime Minister Abij Ahmed. Some health workers and academics estimate that hundreds of thousands died.

The Ethiopian Government Communications Service said in a tweet that the commission began its work in the city of Shire on Wednesday. It is the first time that both sides have held formal talks in Ethiopia since the fighting began.

According to the peace agreement, forces in Tigray will be disarmed within 30 days of the November 2 signing, and Ethiopian security forces will take full control of “all federal installations, facilities and major infrastructure such as airports and highways in the Tigray region.”

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But Tigray officials say demobilization cannot begin until the Ethiopian government removes fighters from Eritrea and the neighboring Amhara region.

Tadesse Werede, commander of the Tigray forces, told reporters last month that “with the continued presence of these (Eritrean and Amharic) forces, it is difficult to even think about a disarmament problem.” Tigray officials were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

Ethiopian officials did not say whether the fighters from Eritrea and the Amhara region would leave Tigray. Neither is part of the peace treaty. Last week, the African Union envoy helping broker the talks, Olesegun Obasanjo, openly called for the withdrawal of “foreign troops”.

Sources inside Tigray told The Associated Press that allies of the Ethiopian army are looting and carrying out mass arrests in the region.

Aid groups and the Ethiopian government have said aid is reaching parts of Tigray that have been inaccessible in the past. Three corridors are currently being used to transport much-needed aid, but much of Tigray remains without power, internet and banking services, according to the Ethiopian Communications Service.

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After Guterres met with Ethiopia’s prime minister in Addis Ababa, the UN said Guterres was “fully committed to mobilizing the entire UN system to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need”.