Officials confirm detailed Ethiopia peace agreement is final

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two officials close to the Ethiopian peace talks say the copy of the “permanent cessation of hostilities” agreement obtained by The Associated Press with details on the disarmament of Tigray forces and federal control of the Tigray region is the signed, final deal designed to end a two-year war that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The signed agreement, which hasn’t been made public, spells out what the Tigray lead negotiator described at Wednesday’s signing as “painful concessions.”

The war in Africa’s second-most populous country, which marks two years this week, has seen abuses documented on both sides, with millions of people displaced and many near famine.

The final agreement says Tigray forces will be disarmed of “light weapons” within 30 days of midnight Thursday, but heavy weapons are the priority, and senior commanders on both sides are to meet within five days of the deal’s signing. Ethiopian federal security forces will take full control of “all federal facilities, installations, and major infrastructure such as airports and highways within the Tigray region.” An interim regional administration will be established after dialogue between the parties.

The agreement sets deadlines on disarmament but little else. Staffers with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross told the AP they had not yet resumed the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, whose communication, transport and banking links have been largely severed since fighting began.

The agreement says Ethiopia’s government will “expedite the provision of humanitarian aid” and “expedite and coordinate the restoration of essential services in the Tigray region within agreed time frames.”

The officials close to the talks who confirmed the final agreement spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Enormous challenges lie ahead in implementing the deal, including getting all parties to lay down their arms.

The government of neighboring Eritrea, whose forces have fought alongside Ethiopian ones, has not commented, and it was not immediately clear whether Eritrean forces had begun to withdraw. The agreement says Ethiopian forces will be deployed along the borders and “ensure that there will be no provocation or incursion from either side of the border.”

On Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed asserted during a visit to southern Ethiopia that his government’s proposal at the talks was accepted “100%” and the government was ready to “open our hearts” for peace to prevail. He also said the issue of contested areas, widely seen as one of the most difficult ones, will be resolved only through the law of the land and negotiations.

The day after the deal included the “cessation of all forms of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech,” Ethiopian media outlets ceased using the word “terrorist” to refer to Tigray authorities and forces. The signed deal says Ethiopia’s government agrees to facilitate the lifting of the terrorist designation on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front party.

Inside Tigray, one humanitarian worker in the town of Shire said there was no sounds of gunfire, as in the past few days, and a “blockade” of movement on people and vehicles was still in place. Like many inside Tigray, the source spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

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