The first commercial flights to Tigray in roughly 18 months will begin on Wednesday, Ethiopian Airlines announced in a statement, with flights to the capital of the war-torn northern district of Tigray.
The declaration was made the day after a group of government representatives and executives from public companies travelled to Mekelle to talk about the implementation of the peace accord from last month.
The two years of combat between the Tigrayan forces and the Ethiopian federal government and allies, which resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of displaced people, came to an end with the deal, which included pledges to restore services.
“The resumption of these 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,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Mesfin Tasew, who was part of the delegation to Mekelle, said in a statement.
Within hours after the announcement, a travel agent in Addis Abeba told reporters that the first aircraft headed for Mekelle was completely booked.
According to official media on Tuesday, nearly the entire region is now linked to the national power system, and telecom services have been restored in 27 towns.
“In the meantime, 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,” Ethiopian national security adviser Redwan Hussien said on Twitter. He cited the Nairobi agreement on the implementation of the peace accord, which called for the handover of heavy weapons, together with the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces, without naming specific foreign forces.
Despite not being signatories to the peace agreements, Eritrean forces that have fought alongside Ethiopian federal forces have been accused of pillaging towns, detaining, and killing civilians after the deal was signed.
An employee of a humanitarian organization in the Tigrayan town of Shire informed reporters that on Tuesday morning, he observed Eritrean soldiers there.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) commander Debretsion Gebremichael demanded their eviction.