Ethiopian Airlines to resume flying to war-torn Tigray
Ethiopia's national carrier announced on Tuesday that it would resume flights to Tigray, after suspending commercial air travel to the war-torn region for 18 months.
It follows a ceasefire between the government and rebel forces last month and the gradual reopening of the stricken region. The peace agreement calls for the resumption of basic services in Tigray.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ethiopian Airlines said it was "truly pleased with the resumption of our flights to Mekele."
The airline said that resumption of flights "will enable families to reunite, facilitate the restoration of commercial activities, stimulate tourist flow and bring many more opportunities which will serve the society."
Airline to gauge demand for flights
The airline said that it would be servicing passengers traveling between Addis Ababa and Mekele with daily flights. It would then increase the frequency of flights depending on demand for tickets.
The Reuters news agency reported that the first Mekele-bound flight was fully booked within hours of the announcement, citing a travel agent operating out of Addis Ababa.
The return of commercial flights to Tigray comes just days after a high-level delegation of Ethiopian government officials traveled to the region to oversee the implementation of last month's peace agreement signed with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in South Africa.
The peace accord requires the handover of heavy weaponry along with the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces.
Eritrean troops have been fighting alongside Ethiopian government forces but are not signatories of the peace deal.
TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael said that some of his fighters had remained in areas where Eritrean troops were reportedly still deployed.
"We have disengaged our troops in all four fronts. But we left some in areas where (Eritrean) forces are still present," Gebremichael said in a televised address from Mekele.
Ethiopia's national security advisor Redwan Hussein, said that the "handing over of heavy weapons and resumption of Constitutional duty of ENDF (Ethiopian National Defence Force) in Mekele in particular is expected to be executed until Thursday."
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a previous article. The news item has been changed to reflect that while a peace deal is in place, the region is still dealing with the effects of the war.
kb/dj (Reuters, AFP)