US urges restoration of essential services in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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The United States wants the opposing sides involved in conflict in Ethiopia to advance a negotiated ceasefire and for essential services to be restored in the Tigray region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.

“We now urge the parties, to seize the opportunity to advance a negotiated ceasefire, including the necessary security arrangements, and call for the restoration of essential services in Tigray on an urgent basis,” he said in a statement.

The Ethiopian government said on Thursday that rebellious Tigrayan forces are still in the neighbouring region of Afar, despite a spokesman for the Tigrayan forces announcing their withdrawal days earlier.

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu told state media that the news that Tigrayan forces had left Afar were “big lies.”

Afar Police Commissioner Ahmed Harif told Reuters on Thursday that Tigrayan forces were still in four districts bordering Tigray – Koneba, Abala, Berhale and Magale – and had not moved since Monday.

Getachew Reda, the spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray, did not respond to requests for comment. On Monday, he told Reuters Tigrayan forces were leaving Afar.

The Tigrayan forces said they were withdrawing so humanitarian convoys could enter.

Only a trickle of aid has made it into famine-hit Tigray, where more than 90% of the population need food aid, since the Ethiopian military withdrew at the end of June.

The United Nations has blamed government bureaucracy and fighting for blocking convoys.