Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

Addis Abab (Reuters) – The Ethiopian army could re-enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle within weeks if needed, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government task force said on Wednesday, adding a ceasefire declared on Monday was for humanitarian reasons.

It was the first public statement by any official in Ethiopia’s federal government since Mekelle was seized by Tigrayan forces this week.

“Ethiopia is exposed to an attack from outsiders” because of the conflict, Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the Ethiopian government’s task force for Tigray, told reporters in apparent reference to Sudan.

On Monday, as the reports emerged of Tigrayan troops reaching downtown Mekelle, the regional capital, the federal government issued a statement declaring a unilateral ceasefire with immediate effect.

On Tuesday, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters that the ceasefire declaration was a “joke”. Phone lines were down in Mekelle on Wednesday.

Redwan described the ceasefire as a political decision “made for humanitarian cause”.

“If it is required, we can easily enter to Mekelle and we can enter in less than three weeks,” he said.

The TPLF, an ethnically based political party that dominated Ethiopia’s national politics for nearly three decades, has been battling the central government since early November. It made major territorial gains in the past week.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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