Ethiopia’s flagship carrier Ethiopian Airlines has announced it will resume daily flights to Tigray region’s capital Mekelle as an African Union-brokered peace deal moves forward.
The national carrier said it would operate daily flights from Wednesday and increase the number of daily flights depending on demand.
The airline halted flights to the region weeks after the war broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
In a statement, head of the airline Mesfin Tasew said the resumption of flights would help families connect as well as facilitate business and tourism.
A CNN investigation last year accused Ethiopian Airlines of transporting troops and weapons to fight the Tigrayan rebels.
The airline denied the allegations, saying the photo evidence was manipulated.
The announced resumption of flights comes just a day after Ethiopian officials arrived in Tigray’s capital Mekelle for the first time in nearly two years for implementation of a November peace deal.
The speaker of Ethiopia’s parliament Tagesse Chaffo Dullo led the delegation, which included a security advisor to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, leaders of state companies, and members of Ethiopia’s National Dialogue Commission.
National Security Advisor Redwan Hussein tweeted Tuesday that Ethio Telecom, which was part of the delegation, was expected to announce further resumption of services to Tigray.
Hussein also tweeted the TPLF was expected to work until Thursday on handing over heavy weapons and control of Mekelle to Ethiopia’s military as agreed during meetings this month in Nairobi.
The delegation’s visit to Tigray was welcomed by a Tigrayan spokesman as a milestone in the peace agreement to end the war.
Getachew Reda tweeted Tuesday that the government’s gesture to green light what he called the long overdue restoration of services was commendable.
He noted that none of the delegation members were accompanied by security guards, which he called a testament to their confidence in Tigray’s commitment to the peace agreement.
Mediators from Kenya and the African Union are also expected to visit Tigray after Ethiopia and the TPLF agreed last week in Nairobi to a joint monitoring team.
Ethiopia has gradually lifted a blockade on much needed food and medical aid to Tigray and already restored some telecommunications.
Ethiopian federal and Tigrayan officials signed the African Union-brokered peace deal in South Africa on November 2, agreeing for hostilities to end, rebel groups to disarm, foreign fighters to leave, and blocked aid and other services to be restored.