The rebels in Ethiopia’s Tigray region say they are open to negotiations with the federal government but determined to continue advancing into northern Ethiopia as long as its military reinforcements continue to “threaten” their region.
After a five-month truce, fighting resumed on 24 August between the federal army and Tigrayan rebel troops, who accuse each other of having triggered the hostilities.
Journalists have no access to northern Ethiopia, making independent verification impossible. The mobile and internet networks are also unreliable and the situation on the ground is difficult to assess.
In recent days, according to sources, the rebels have advanced about 50 kilometers south of the Tigray border, into the neighboring Amhara region, and southeast into the Afar region.
“We are fighting a defensive war” and “we remain open to negotiations”, said a spokesman for the rebel authorities in Tigray, Getachew Reda, in a press briefing broadcast on the Internet, again accusing the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of having broken the truce observed since late March.
He explained that after initially “defending (their) positions”, the rebels had now launched a counter-offensive.
“Abiy continues to make miscalculation after miscalculation by continuing to send reinforcements. We will continue to neutralize them, which will probably drive us further and further into the Amhara region,” he warned.
“We are not particularly interested in controlling this area, but as long as the forces unleashed against us continue to threaten the security of our people, we will continue to take appropriate measures to neutralize them” and “that will determine where we stop,” he threatened.
Questioned by AFP, the Ethiopian government recalled its “efforts in favor of peace and the concrete measures taken” in this sense and said it was “once again determined to peacefully resolve the conflict which has once again been triggered” by the “terrorist” rebels of Tigray.