The United States on Tuesday urged Cameroon to devolve power in its troubled anglophone region, saying the government's military response was only strengthening separatists.
The warning came weeks after the United States ended certain preferential trade benefits for Cameroon, citing human rights violations including arbitrary killings.
Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, said he believed advisors to Cameroon's veteran resident, Paul Biya, were telling him "you can win this militarily."
"The truth is, it's not going to be won militarily," Nagy told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
"Every day more Cameroonians who in the beginning were probably very loyal Cameroonians are starting to think that maybe declaring a separate country is the way we want to go," he said.
He acknowledged Cameroon has held talks to resolve the crisis but said they have been primarily symbolic, with little concrete.
"There has to be a true dialogue. There has to be also devolution of power to the region," Nagy said, calling for "something so that the people who are still moderates can gravitate towards that."
Violence has grown in two English-speaking regions, which have a separate colonial past, where activists have protested what they see as encroachment in the mostly French-speaking nation.
A separate conflict has flared in the impoverished Far North of Cameroon with militants of the Boko Haram extremist group.
Cameroon has called parliamentary and municipal polls for February 2020, two years after Biya's disputed re-election triggered a major crisis.