Ethiopia declares humanitarian truce in war-ravaged Tigray

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ethiopia’s government on Thursday announced what it called an “indefinite humanitarian truce” in its war-ravaged Tigray region, saying the action was necessary to allow unimpeded relief supplies into the area.

“The government calls upon the donor community to redouble their generous contributions to alleviate the situation and reiterates its commitment to work in collaboration with relevant organizations to expedite the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need,” authorities said in a statement issued by the Government Communication Service.

The government statement said Tigray’s forces must reciprocate the truce for the humanitarian situation to improve in the region.

It urged fighters loyal to Tigray’s fugitive leaders “to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions.”

It was not immediately possible to get a comment from Tigray’s leaders.

It was not clear if the immediate humanitarian truce is a step toward a comprehensive cease-fire.

Ethiopia’s government has faced growing international pressure to ease restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid into Tigray.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian who considers the Tigray region home, has repeatedly urged Ethiopian authorities to allow unfettered humanitarian access into Tigray.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States strongly supports the declaration of an indefinite humanitarian truce.

“This commitment to a cessation of hostilities should be a critical step towards the resumption and sustainment of humanitarian assistance to the people in Tigray and all Ethiopian regions and communities in need,” Blinken said in a statement. “It should also serve as an essential foundation of an inclusive political process to achieve progress towards common security and prosperity for all the people of Ethiopia.”

Months of political tensions between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government exploded into war in November 2020.

The war is believed to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.

Although the war has subsided in several places, notably within the Tigray and Amhara regions, concerns remain in the northeastern Afar region.

Aid into the Tigray region has been severely limited under what the United Nations described as a “de facto humanitarian blockade.”

In June Ethiopia’s government cut off almost all access to food aid, medical supplies, cash and fuel in Tigray.

The World Food Program warned earlier this year that three-quarters of Tigray’s population of 6 million are “using extreme coping strategies to survive” and more than a third “are suffering an extreme lack of food.”

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said the U.N. chief “hopes that this truce will translate into an effective cessation of hostilities, respected by all parties in this conflict, to allow for effective humanitarian access for all who need it.”

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