NAIROBI: Ethiopia’s prime minister is rejecting a growing international consensus for dialogue and a halt to deadly fighting in the country’s Tigray region as “interference,” saying his country will handle the conflict on its own as a 72-hour surrender ultimatum runs out.

Ethiopia “appreciates the well-meaning concerns of our friends,” the statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said Wednesday, shortly before the end of his ultimatum for Tigray regional leaders to surrender. But “we reject any interference in our internal affairs.”

“The international community should stand by until the government of Ethiopia submits its requests for assistance to the community of nations,” the statement added. “We respectfully urge the international community to refrain from any unwelcome and unlawful acts of interference.”

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, insists on calling the conflict a “law enforcement operation” while tanks encircle the Tigray capital, Mekele, in a final push to arrest the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Abiy’s government has warned the city’s half-million residents to move away from the TPLF leaders or there will be “no mercy” — language that the United Nations human rights chief and others have warned could lead to “further violations of international humanitarian law.”

Communications remain almost completely severed to the Tigray region of some 6 million people, complicating efforts to verify the warring sides’ claims.

Under the circumstances, it is not clear how many people in Mekele are aware of the warnings and the threat of artillery fire in the coming hours.