UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the conflict in Ethiopia has seen more casualties than the war in Ukraine.

In this file photo, Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda pass documents during the signing of the AU-led negotiations to resolve the conflict.
In this file photo, Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda pass documents during the signing of the AU-led negotiations to resolve the conflict. (Reuters)

A joint committee of the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebels convened inside the Tigray region to outline disarmament plans as part of a peace deal signed last month to end the two-year conflict, Ethiopia's government has said.

Ethiopia's conflict has seen more casualties than the war in Ukraine, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday on a visit to the country to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

Estimates by some health workers and academics say hundreds of thousands have been killed.

Ethiopia’s Government Communication Service said in a tweet that the committee started work on Wednesday in the town of Shire. It is the first time both sides have officially held talks inside Ethiopia since the fighting began.

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The peace agreement says Tigray rebels will be disarmed within 30 days of the November 2 signing, and Ethiopian security forces will take full control of "all federal facilities, installations and major infrastructure such as airports and highways within the Tigray region".

However, Tigray officials say disarmament cannot start until Ethiopia's government has removed fighters who have come from Eritrea and the neighbouring Amhara region.

Tadesse Werede, commander of the Tigray rebels, last month told reporters that "with these (Eritrean and Amhara) forces' continued presence, it is difficult to even think about a disarmament issue".

Tigray officials were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

Ethiopian officials have not said whether fighters from Eritrea and the Amhara region are leaving Tigray. Neither is part of the peace deal. Last week, the African Union envoy helping to mediate the talks, Olesegun Obasanjo, openly called for the withdrawal of "foreign troops".

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Aid groups and Ethiopia's government have said help is reaching some parts of Tigray that were inaccessible in the past. Ethiopia’s communication service said three corridors are now being used to transport much-needed aid, but large parts of Tigray remain without electricity, internet or banking services.

After Guterres met with Ethiopia's prime minister in Addis Ababa, the UN said Guterres "is fully committed to mobilising the entire UN system to provide humanitarian support to all those who need it".

Source: AP