Ethiopia’s government said on Friday that international aid was “allowed and ready” to move into Tigray, after humanitarian agencies said they were still awaiting access to the war-ravaged region nine days after a truce was declared.
Under the ceasefire agreement signed Nov. 2 with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the region, the federal government pledged to work with agencies to expedite the provision of aid, without committing to a timeline.
The central government and representatives from Tigray are negotiating implementation of that agreement in talks in Nairobi, including the resumption of aid deliveries.
International agencies say they have been blocked for much of the conflict from sending desperately needed assistance into Tigray, a region of 5.5 million people of whom half are in urgent need of food supplies.
Ethiopia’s government denies blocking aid.
Its lead negotiator, Redwan Hussien, on Friday said essential services were being restored and humanitarian aid was flowing in.
Three officials at international humanitarian organisations said their convoys were still awaiting permission from authorities to cross into the area.
In comments sent to Reuters later on Friday, Redwan clarified that 35 aid trucks had made their way to the northern city of Shire but that they were from the government.
“That of humanitarian (aid) follows soon. They are allowed and ready,” he said, adding that he expected international aid would start moving in “anytime”.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs said it was still “waiting urgently for actions to respect and implement the agreement.”
“Vulnerable Ethiopians in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara need aid now,” it said on Twitter, referring to neighbouring regions impacted by the war.
It also quoted Redwan as saying in Nairobi that aid would flow unhindered “by week’s end”.
Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission, which coordinates Ethiopian aid, said earlier on Friday it would provide an update but did not respond to subsequent requests seeking comment.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia did not respond to a request for comment.
Military commanders at the African Union-mediated talks in Nairobi on Friday also sought to work out details of the disarmament of Tigray forces, among other steps.
Observers have expressed concerns about when Eritrean and other forces that were not party to the ceasefire will withdraw from Tigray. Eritrea’s government has said nothing about whether it would abide by the ceasefire agreement.
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel on Friday did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reporting by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes and Ayenat Mersie; Editing by James Macharia Chege, Tomasz Janowski and John Stonestreet