Authorities in Ethiopia’s Tigray say would respect ceasefire

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Authorities in Ethiopia’s rebel-held Tigray region announced Sunday they would respect a ceasefire after the African Union called for an immediate pause to the fighting and peace talks to end nearly two years of war.

“We are ready to abide by an immediate cessation of hostilities. We also call on the international community to compel the Eritrean army to withdraw from Tigray, take practical steps towards an immediate cessation of hostilities, and press the Ethiopian Government to come to the negotiating table,” authorities in the war-torn northern region said in a statement.

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It followed a call on Sunday by AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat for an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire” in northern Ethiopia, where violence has intensified since a truce between the rivals collapsed in August.

Faki urged the warring sides to “recommit to dialogue as per their agreement to direct talks to be convened in South Africa” led by the AU’s Horn of Africa envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, and international mediators.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, and the Tigrayan authorities, have accepted an AU invitation to talk, but negotiations scheduled to start last weekend in South Africa failed to materialize and no new date has been announced.

Since then fighting has escalated around Shire, a city of 100,000 in northwest Tigray, and there are grave concerns for civilians there as Ethiopian and Eritrean troops wage a joint offensive against rebels from the region.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has joined the United States and other Western powers in voicing alarm over the worsening violence and its toll on civilians, calling for both sides to settle “this catastrophic conflict.”

A government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by AFP.

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