Eritrea Reacts Coolly to US Initiative on Border Row


Feb 9, 2006 (ASMARA) — Eritrean government on last Thursday reacted coolly to a US pledge at the United Nations to pursue diplomatic initiatives to resolve its border stalemate with arch-rival Ethiopia.

 As the UN mission monitoring the frontier said the situation remained “tense,” Asmara, which last month snubbed a senior US Envoy, said the time had come for Addis Ababa to be forced to accept a four-year-old border demarcation.

It said the US efforts had to deal specifically with that issue if they were to be accepted by Eritrea, which holds that Ethiopia’s rejection of the new boundary is the main cause of the current tensions.

“They are talking about mechanics, what we want to see are tangible results on the ground,” said Yemane Gebremeskel, director of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s office.

On Wednesday, the United States won another month from the UN Security Council for its mediation bid on the matter despite Eritrea’s resistance and demands for the immediate enforcement of the border ruling.

Washington said efforts were under way to convene a meeting of the witnesses to the 2000 Algiers peace deal that ended the bloody two-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, to be followed by a further meeting of the EEBC (Eritrea- Ethiopia Boundary Commission), which set the new border now almost four years ago, with the parties.

But Yemane said the time for talk had passed and that Eritrea’s stance could no longer be ignored.

“The Eritrean demands are long overdue, we have to see the implementation of the Algiers agreement and the demarcation,” he said. “The border decision was made in 2002, four years ago. Nobody can justify the delay.”

Also Thursday, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said the military situation along the border “remains tense,” and reported that one civilian had been killed and seven injured in two landmine accidents last week.

Both accidents occurred in southwest Eritrea within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the Ethiopian border: one on Saturday injured two people, and one on January 31 killed a truck driver and wounded five passengers.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that cost some 80,000 lives before the Algiers accord was reached in which both vowed to respect the border ruling.

Ethiopia, however, changed its mind after the new border line was defined, Eritrea has repeatedly warned of a new conflict unless it is accepted, while complaining vehemently that the international community is favoring its larger neighbor.

To show its displeasure with the United Nations, Asmara has slapped restrictions on UN peacekeepers monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border and expelled North American and European peacekeeping staff.

It has refused to respond to UN Security Council demands, backed by the threat of sanctions, to lift the curbs.

In late January, Asmara slammed the United States for “evil” foreign policies that encouraged Ethiopia to ignore the border ruling and brought the two nations to the brink of new war.

“The current extremely sad and dangerous situation is the outcome of the erroneous US foreign policy,” the information ministry said on January 29.

Earlier that month, Eritrea refused to cooperate in a fact-finding visit to the country by a senior US diplomat.

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