A new front in Ethiopia's war in the Afar region is imperilling efforts to get enemies to sit down to peace talks, three regional officials and three diplomats said, and a ceasefire declared last week may have been breached in some places.
The flare-up of violence in Afar this year came after fighting in the neighbouring regions of Tigray and Amhara had ground to a stalemate and as moves were gathering pace to get the government in Addis Ababa and Tigrayan rebels to agree to peace negotiations.
"There cannot be peace in Ethiopia while there is fighting in Afar," said Mussa Ibrahim, a clan leader in Erepti, one of six districts in Afar currently occupied by Tigrayan forces.
On Thursday, Ethiopia announced a unilateral ceasefire, the second to be called in a 16-month conflict that has displaced millions of people and plunged hundreds of thousands into famine conditions.
But Afar police commissioner Ahmed Harif told Reuters on Monday that fighting was ongoing in two of the six districts occupied by Tigrayan fighters, and there was a "significant" buildup of Tigrayan forces along the border.
Two humanitarian workers confirmed the fighting.
Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which is battling the government, denied there were clashes in those areas. He did not comment on accusations of a military buildup.