Ethiopia combatants sign deal to start implementing truce
- Declaration intensifies efforts to end two-year conflict
- Parties say committed to next steps including disarmament
- Mediators say implementation of plan to start immediately
- Includes provision of humanitarian aid to affected areas
NAIROBI, Nov 12 (Reuters) - The Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces on Saturday signed an agreement laying out the roadmap for implementation of a peace deal that both sides reached in South Africa this month.
Representatives from the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) have been meeting in Nairobi since Monday to reach agreement on various aspects related to the implementation of the peace pact signed in Pretoria.
Saturday's declaration is expected to boost efforts by the African Union mediators to resolve a two-year conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions in the Horn of Africa country.
It will facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, provide security guarantees to aid workers, ensure the protection of civilians and establish a joint committee to oversee implementation, mediators said.
The deal will be put into effect "immediately", mediator Olusegun Obasanjo told a news conference before the signing.
BOTH SIDES COMMITTED
Both sides said they were committed to the declaration, stressing it was the only way to restore peace and stability.
"We will fully dedicate ourselves to implementing the Pretoria agreement and this declaration," said Birhanu Jula, a senior Ethiopian military official and one of the government representatives at the talks.
Ethiopian military officials and TPLF had reached an agreement on the disarmament of TPLF fighters and entry of the Ethiopian military into the Tigrayan capital of Mekele, the federal government said in a statement issued after the signing.
Disarmament will start on Nov. 15, the declaration, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, showed.
The role of Eritrea, which has not participated in the talks, remains concerning, analysts say. Its troops have fought in the conflict on the side of the Ethiopian army.
"Disarmament of heavy weapons will be done with the withdrawal of foreign and non-ENDF (federal military) forces from the region," the declaration signed on Saturday said, without specifically naming any foreign forces.
Eritrea's Information Minister Yemane Meskel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of TPLF's representatives, General Tadesse Werede, said the declaration on implementation had given them hope that the suffering of the people in Tigray would end.
Asked if it included accountability for war crimes, Uhuru Kenyatta, another mediator and former president of Kenya, said that would come "when the guns are silenced and the dire humanitarian situation is addressed".
"There shall be severe sanctions against anyone who commits atrocities against civilians," he said.
The two sides agreed to a permanent cessation of hostilities in an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough in South Africa on Nov. 2.
Immediate humanitarian access will be welcome relief in a region where hundreds of thousands face famine conditions.
On Friday Ethiopia's government said international aid was "allowed and ready" to move into Tigray.
Agencies were preparing to send an aid convoy to Alamata in southern Tigray next week, and working out the final details for getting aid to other areas, a senior humanitarian official in Ethiopia told Reuters on Saturday.
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