Ethiopia establishes Tigray interim administration as part of peace plan

FILE PHOTO: Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray authorities who is flanked by other officials, witnesses the signing of the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces, in Nairobi

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopia has established an interim administration for the country's war-ravaged northern Tigray region, the prime minister's office said on Thursday, a key step in the implementation of a peace agreement.

As had been expected, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed Getachew Reda, the spokesman of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which led the northern region into war with the federal government in late 2020, as the head of the interim administration.

Tens of thousands of people were killed and millions forced from their homes in the two-year Tigray conflict, which ended with a truce signed in Pretoria last November.

The lack of an interim government hampered the humanitarian response across the region, as salaries for civil servants and medical personnel went unpaid and aid agencies lacked a government partner to work with, according to humanitarians in the region.

"The head of administration has been entrusted with the responsibility of leading and coordinating the executive body of the region," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Getachew must set up "an inclusive administration that ensures the representation of various political forces operating in the region," the statement said.

Getachew, who had been nominated for the role by the TPLF last week, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday Ethiopia's parliament agreed to remove the TPLF from a list of terrorist organizations, an important hurdle in appointing the interim administration.

Earlier this week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), its allies from the Eritrean army and Amhara regional forces, and opposing forces loyal to the TPLF committed war crimes during the conflict.

Eritrea and Ethiopia strongly denied the accusations.

Blinken's statement came shortly after his visit to Ethiopia earlier this month, where he praised progress in implementing a peace deal, but stopped short of re-admitting Ethiopia into a U.S. trade programme.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Hereward Holland and Susan Fenton)