European Union and US officials said on Tuesday (2 August) that “there should be no obstacle” to restoring banking and telecommunications services to the country’s isolated northern Tigray region.
War erupted in Tigray in November 2020 and spilled into neighbouring regions a year ago. The fighting eased in March after both sides fought to a bloody stalemate and the government declared a humanitarian truce. Amid reports of widespread hunger, the government has allowed some humanitarian aid to enter but fuel to distribute it has been severely restricted.
Services such as banking and telecommunications were cut in Tigray days after the military pulled out a year ago. They are yet to be restored.
In June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government formed a committee to negotiate with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray. The government wants talks “with no preconditions.” Tigray has called for the restoration of services to civilians first.
On Tuesday, diplomats Annette Weber of the European Union and Mike Hammer of the United States, both special envoys for the Horn of Africa, said they had travelled to the Tigrayan capital Mekelle to give the planned talks a push “The Envoys agree that a swift restoration of electricity, telecom, banking, and other basic services in Tigray is essential for the people of Tigray, as recognised in earlier discussions with the Ethiopian Government,” they said in a joint statement.
They said Tigray’s regional president gave assurances that security would be guaranteed for workers going to restore services.
“With this security assurance, there should be no obstacle for the restoration of services to begin,” Weber and Hammer said.
Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson, and Legesse Tulu, government spokesperson, did not immediately respond to requests by Reuters for comment.
Redwan Hussien, Abiy’s national security adviser, said in late July the federal government was ready for talks “anytime anywhere,” and for them to start without any preconditions.
The fighting, which also spilled into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions last year, has displaced millions of people, pushed parts of Tigray into famine conditions and killed thousands of civilians.