Representatives from the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebels sign a ceasefire agreement in South Africa, in a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough.

An Ethiopian government representative says all parties should be true to the letter and spirit of the agreement.
An Ethiopian government representative says all parties should be true to the letter and spirit of the agreement. (AFP)

The parties in the conflict in Ethiopia's northern region of Tigray have agreed to cease hostilities, a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough two years into a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

African Union mediator Olusegun Obasanjo, welcoming delegates from the government and the Tigray forces to a signing ceremony on Wednesday in the South African capital Pretoria, said the agreement would allow humanitarian supplies to Tigray to be restored.

"The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as the systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament," Obasanjo, who is also a former Nigerian president, said.

The agreement marked a new "dawn" for Ethiopia, he said, speaking at a press conference.

The war, which broke out in November 2020, pits regional forces from Tigray against Ethiopia's federal army and its allies, who include forces from other regions and from neighbouring Eritrea.

The peace talks began formally in Pretoria on October 25.

READ MORE: Ethiopia, Tigray rebels begin long-awaited peace talks in South Africa

AU to monitor deal

Obasanjo said the implementation of the agreement would be supervised and monitored by a high-level African Union panel. 

He praised the process as an African solution to an African problem.

Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien, who is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's National Security Adviser, said all parties should be true to the letter and spirit of the agreement.

In response, Tigray delegate Getachew Reda, a spokesperson for the regional authorities, spoke of the wide-scale death and destruction in the region and said it was his hope and expectation that both parties would honour their commitments.

"We are ready to implement and expedite this agreement," said the head of their delegation, he said.

"In order to address the pains of our people, we have made concessions because we have to build trust," Reda added

The conflict has at times spilt out of Tigray into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Neither Eritrea nor regional forces allied with the Ethiopian army took part in the talks in South Africa and it was unclear whether they would abide by the agreement reached there.

The war stems from a catastrophic breakdown in relations between the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a guerrilla movement turned political party which dominated Ethiopia for 27 years, and Abiy, who was once part of their ruling coalition but whose appointment in 2018 ended the TPLF’s dominance.

Escalating tensions in 2018-20, including over Abiy's peace deal with the TPLF's sworn enemy Eritrea, and the TPLF's decision to defy him by holding regional elections in Tigray that he had postponed nationwide, tipped the feuding parties into war.

READ MORE: Ethiopians rally against 'foreign interference' in Tigray conflict

Source: TRTWorld and agencies