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Ethiopia: uncertain situation and international concerns after the resumption of fighting

Neither the Ethiopian government nor rebel authorities - who mutually blame each other for sparking the new clashes - gave any information on whether or not fighting continued on Thursday, and neither responded to questions from the government.

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Ethiopia: uncertain situation and international concerns after the resumption of fighting

Neither the Ethiopian government nor rebel authorities - who mutually blame each other for sparking the new clashes - gave any information on whether or not fighting continued on Thursday, and neither responded to questions from the government. AFP immediately.

In a statement dated Wednesday, the rebel authorities in Tigray simply said that government forces "failed" to "break (their) defense lines".

The fighting, which broke out on Wednesday in areas of the Amhara and Afar regions around the southeastern tip of Tigray, does not appear to have spread.

But the international community is worried about a possible resumption of the conflict on a large scale and that the meager hopes aroused in June by the prospects for negotiations that have never materialized will be extinguished.

The conflict that erupted in November 2020 left several thousand dead, more than two million displaced and plunged hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into conditions close to famine, according to the United Nations.

"Reports of a resumption of conflict in northern Ethiopia are clouding the prospects for peace", said the head of diplomacy of the European Union Josep Borrell, calling on "all parties to defuse the situation before it does not degenerate into a full-fledged war again".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on both sides "to put a definitive end to the conflict", stressing that the resumption of fighting jeopardized the truce reached at the end of March "which has reduced violence and saved lives".

The UN, African Union, Turkey and Britain have also called for dialogue.

- "Contacts directs"- 

On Thursday, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen, repeated to diplomats that "the government is ready to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Nation", but also "determined to use means peaceful ways to end the conflict".

The government again accused the rebels on Thursday of diverting humanitarian aid for military purposes, after the World Food Program claimed they had forcibly seized 12 tank trucks stationed in Tigray containing 570,000 liters of fuel needed to distribute food.

Addis Ababa assures that "the looting of fuel" has "undoubtedly served" the rebels to resume fighting on Wednesday and demands that the international community "provide guarantees that humanitarian aid reaches the intended beneficiaries" in Tigray.

Since the end of June, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray rebels have repeatedly expressed their willingness to begin peace negotiations, but continue to disagree on their terms. And the past few days had accused each other of preparing for war.

The federal government wants immediate talks without preconditions, under the aegis of the African Union (AU). The rebels demanded that the electricity, telecommunications and banking services of which Tigray is deprived first be restored, and rejected the mediation of the High Representative of the AU, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In a letter published on Wednesday, the leader of the Tigray rebel authorities, Debretsion Gebremichael, for the first time acknowledged that "two rounds of direct discussions" had taken place with civilian and military officials of the Ethiopian government.

He accused the Ethiopian government of not honoring commitments made on those occasions.

- Humanitarian disaster -

"While one side draws a roadmap for peace, the other side declares war. While the government explores all options to consolidate the truce", the Tigrayan rebels are "actively working towards its end", stressed for its part, the committee appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to prepare negotiations.

The truce concluded at the end of March notably allowed the gradual resumption of the delivery of humanitarian aid by road to Tigray, after a three-month interruption.

The war began in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to Tigray to dislodge regional authorities, accusing them of attacking military bases after months of contesting his authority.

After initially retreating, the Tigrayan rebels regained control of most of the region in a mid-2021 counteroffensive, during which they entered Amhara and Afar.

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