Eritrea accuses Ethiopia of reopening negotiations


Mar 15, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Eritrea on Tuesday expressed concern about the latest attempt to resolve its border dispute with Ethiopia, accusing Ethiopia of trying to reopen negotiations instead of simply accepting a 2002 ruling on the frontier.

Ethiopia’s proposal “basically says they do not accept the decision as it is,” said Yemani Ghebremeskel, the Eritrea president’s chief of staff.

Ethiopian officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment, according to Associated Press and Reuters. Yemani appeared to be reacting to a statement posted on the Web site of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying the country would continue talks on the border as long as the talks “are consistent with Ethiopia’s Five Point Peace Proposal.”

The proposal, first made by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2004, calls on Eritrea to accept changes to the 2002 ruling, including exchanging land where villages may be divided by the border.

Meles has said that if the five points are accepted, his country would pay its share of the costs of an independent boundary commission _ which it has so far refused to do _ and allow commission staff to carry out their work on the border.

Monday, the U.N. secretary-general’s office had released a statement praising both sides for participating “constructively” in a weekend meeting in London of the boundary commission. The commission made the 2002 ruling on where the border should be drawn, working under a peace treaty signed in Algeria that ended a 1998-2000 war. Ethiopia has rejected the ruling because it granted the key town of Badme to Eritrea.

Both sides have repeatedly shown themselves unwilling to change positions that have stalled resolution for years, and that have raised concerns about renewed fighting. Eritrea had been reluctant to even attend the London meeting, saying more talk was unnecessary and demanding the international community press Ethiopia to accept the 2002 ruling.

The commission was to meet again in late April to discuss progress on demarcation, Yemani said.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

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