The US on Tuesday gave a cautious welcome to the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Ethiopian government in the war-hit Tigray region, as rebel fighters seized more territory.
The rebels’ gains cast doubt on whether the ceasefire would lead to a pause in the nearly eight-month-old conflict that has killed thousands of people and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.
“The Government of Ethiopia’s announcement yesterday of a unilateral ceasefire in the Tigray region could be a positive step if it results in changes on the ground to end the conflict, stop the atrocities, and allow unhindered humanitarian assistance,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“We call on all parties to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire... Our paramount priority is addressing the dire humanitarian situation.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to oust the northern region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
On Monday, his military suffered a dramatic reversal when rebels known as the Tigray defense Forces (TDF) reclaimed the regional capital Mekele.
In announcing its ceasefire Monday, the federal government said it would last until the end of the current “farming season” to help agricultural production and aid distribution while allowing rebels “to return to a peaceful road.”
The United Nations has warned that 350,000 people face starvation in the region.
The African Union, China, France and the United Arab Emirates have all welcomed the ceasefire announcement, but it was dismissed as “a joke” by a spokesman for Tigrayan forces.