No ceasefire unless our rule is accepted, warn Tigray rebels

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 A soldier of Tigray Defence Force (TDF) is escorted by people on a street as he returns in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia - afp/afp
A soldier of Tigray Defence Force (TDF) is escorted by people on a street as he returns in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia - afp/afp

Rebels in the war-torn region of Tigray warned on Sunday that they would only agree to a ceasefire if they were recognised as its legitimate government.

The rebels, which have been locked in a brutal war with the Ethiopian government since November, also demanded that Eritrean and Ethipian forces withdraw from the area in a statement.

Tigray has been the scene of a bitter war since Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army in to topple regional leaders who had ruled over the territory for three decades. Mr Abiy, a Nobel peace prize winner, said this was in response to an attack on a military base in Tigray.

After early successes and a premature declaration of victory, government forces were bogged down in a vicious and months-long battle with the Tigray Defence Forces, or TDF. The Ethiopian army was backed by troops from the neighbouring Amhara region and the army of Eritrea, which borders Tigray.

The long list of conditions for the ceasefire included not just the withdrawal from the region of Eritrean forces, but also fighters from the neighbouring Ethiopian region of Amhara, who have been supporting the Ethiopian army during the eight-month long conflict.

The United Nations and numerous governments have called for a ceasefire to be respected, in particular to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilian populations.

“As long as we have a foolproof guarantee that the security of our people will not be compromised by a second round of invasions, we accept a ceasefire in principle,” a statement signed by the rebels in Tigray “government of Tigray” said on Sunday.

“However, before a ceasefire agreement is formalised, the following thorny issues must be resolved,” the text continues, before listing the conditions - including the demand that the rebels were recognised as Tigray's government.

Other conditions are humanitarian, including the distribution of aid and the safe return to Tigray of displaced people.

According to the UN, over 400,000 people have “crossed the threshold into famine” in Tigray and 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine.

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