Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Friday said the military crackdown on the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was a necessary operation to protect the country from impunity.
"Failure to do so would nurture a culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country," a dispatch from his Office said.
At a meeting with African Union Special Envoys, Dr Abiy said the TPLF had consistently violated laws and threatened to break up the country.
African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa (South African President) had on November 20, 2020 appointed former Presidents Joachim Chissano (Mozambique), Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) and Kgalema Motlanthe (South Africa) to mediate in the Tigray crisis.
Dr Abiy was meeting the special envoys, a week after they were appointed.
Addis Ababa has spent the last week pushing back pressure to negotiate with the TPLF, which was once the ruling party in Ethiopia but is now termed a 'junta.'
Despite calls to slow down on the crackdown, Abiy told the AU envoys he will continue with the operation against the TPLF. The meeting on Friday suggested there won't be dialogue or mediation with the TPLF.
According to the Prime Minister, Addis Ababa in fact already established a "multi-party provisional administration of Tigray, in towns and cities under Federal command to enable provision of government services."
He, however, offered to have dialogue with "civil society and community representatives in the Regional State of Tigray as well as political parties operating legally within the region."
On Thursday, Abiy ordered the final phase of the operation targeting TPLF in the Tigray capital in Makelle. Rights group warned civilians could be harmed, and called for special humanitarian corridors to be created to ensure supplies reach the vulnerable.
Abiy said he will soon "identify and announce" a humanitarian assistance route for delivery of relief "coordinated by the Ministry of Peace."
Communication lines to Tigray have been blocked, making it difficult to verify the official narrative by Addis Ababa. The government of Ethiopia, however, blames the TPLF for cutting the lines.
The fighting has caused as many as 42,000 refugees to flee to neighbouring Sudan. And although Abiy said his government was erecting four camps to host displaced citizens, Ethiopian forces were on Thursday accused of preventing fleeing Ethiopians from going into Sudan.