Ethiopia Enacts Cease-Fire in Tigray Until End of September So Farmers Can Plant Crops

Weeks after dismissing international calls to instate a ceasefire to stave off imminent starvation risks, the government of Ethiopia declared an immediate, unilateral cease-fire in its Tigray region on Monday.

As hundreds of thousands face the world's worst famine crisis in a decade, Ethiopia issued the cease-fire through the end of the planting season in September so that farmers can safely grow their crops.

State media announced the ceasefire shortly after the Tigray interim administration, which was appointed by federal authorities, fled the regional capital, Mekele, calling for a cease-fire so that aid can be delivered. Mekele residents welcome the arrival of Tigray forces.

The cease-fire "will enable farmers to till their land, aid groups to operate without any military movement around and engage with remnants (of Tigray's former ruling party) who seek peace," Ethiopia's statement said, adding that efforts to bring Tigray's former leaders to justice continue.

Earlier this month, international calls for a pause to the fighting from the U.S., U.K., United Nations and several European states went ignored by the Ethiopian government. The bloody eight-month conflict started when government forces attempted to remove the Tigray People's Liberation Front from power, ambushing the ethnic nationalist paramilitary group on key federal military bases.

The U.N. said in May that the fighting has disrupted harvests and blocked emergency aid, especially in rural parts of the region. More than 90 percent of people living in Tigray are in need of emergency food aid, according to the U.N.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tigray bombing
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A Togoga injured residents, a village about 20km west of Mekele, where an alleged airstrike hit a market leaving an unknown number of casualties, receives medical treatments at the Ayder referral hospital in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 23, 2021. - Witnesses and medical personnel said dozens were killed or wounded at a busy market in Togoga town on June 22, 2021, as ballot counting was underway across much of the rest of the country following June 21's national election. ( Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP/Getty Images

The government ordered all federal and regional authorities to respect the cease-fire — crucial as authorities and fighters from the neighboring Amhara region have been accused of atrocities in western Tigray.

"The government has the responsibility to find a political solution to the problem," the head of the interim administration, Abraham Belay, said in calling for the cease-fire, adding that some elements within Tigray's former ruling party are willing to engage with the federal government.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigray fighters, with whom Ethiopia had rejected talks. And there was no immediate comment from neighboring Eritrea, whose soldiers have been accused by Tigray residents of some of the worst atrocities in the war.

Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict as Ethiopian and allied forces pursue Tigray's former leaders and their supporters, and as humanitarian groups plead for more access to the region of 6 million people.

The region in recent days has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict. International pressure on Ethiopia spiked again last week after a military airstrike on a busy market in Tigray killed more than 60 people.

Bullet hole Tigray
FILE - In this Thursday, May 6, 2021 file photo, the city of Mekele is seen through a bullet hole in a stairway window of the Ayder Referral Hospital, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Ethiopia's government said in a statement carried by state media Monday, June 28, 2021, that it has "positively accepted" a call for an immediate, unilateral cease-fire in its Tigray region after nearly eight months of deadly conflict. Ben Curtis, File/AP Photo