Ethiopia’s prime minister on Wednesday called on the international community not to interfere in his country’s internal affairs, particularly the ongoing operation in the northernmost Tigray province.

“While we appreciate and understand the interest of the international community to assist in the ongoing law enforcement operation, we would also like to underscore that this must be done in accordance with international law,” Abiy Ahmed said in a statement.

“The international community should stand by until the government of Ethiopia submits its requests for assistance to the community of nations.”

On Nov. 4, Ethiopia launched a “law enforcement operation” against the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after accusing it of attacking the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces, killing soldiers and looting military assets.

“Our internal peace was threatened by hardline members of the old order, and particularly of the TPLF, who deployed everything within their hands to subvert the reform process and bring themselves back to power through the use of force,” the premier said.

Besides casualties, more than 41,000 Ethiopians have fled fighting to neighboring Sudan.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s government for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018. He sought to centralize power in a country long ruled along ethnic lines. The TPLF opted out when Abiy dissolved the ruling coalition.

Tensions escalated when Tigray held a regional election in September, defying a nationwide ban on all polls due to the coronavirus pandemic. The vote has been termed illegal by the federal government.

The international community has urged the conflicting parties not to target civilians, halt fighting and hold dialogue.

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