A surprise deal has been reached in the Ethiopian civil war with both sides agreeing to halt their two-year conflict which led to thousands of deaths and warnings of a famine.

The African Union (AU) has called it a new “dawn”, AFP news agency says.

The agreement between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces should allow aid deliveries to resume.

Almost 90% of people in the northern Tigray region need food aid, the World Health Organization says.

About a third of the region’s children are suffering from malnutrition.

Although it’s a major breakthrough, it’ll be received with some degree of caution. 

This is not the first ceasefire in the conflict – a previous one was breached in August, just months after both sides committed to it. 

This time though, the agreements have gone further. The Ethiopian government officials and representatives of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have signed up to a disarmament plan and the restoration of crucial services, including aid supplies.

“Ethiopia has only one national defence force,” reads the joint statement. The TPLF has made a major concession – to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate fighters into the federal army. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has described the agreement as “monumental” and committed to implementing it.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who mediated the deal agreed after a week of talks in South Africa, said it was just the beginning of the peace process.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “a welcome first step, which we hope can start to bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians that have really suffered during this conflict”.