Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi branded the crucial boundary ruling that places the symbolic village of Badme in Eritrea as “wrong and unjust” on Tuesday.
His comments come amid increasing tensions between both countries over the controversial decision by the independent Eritrea-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC).
“Well accepting that war is unacceptable is one thing,” the prime minister told reporters after meeting Irish rock singer Bob Geldof. “Accepting something that is wrong and unjust as right and just would not be fair, would it?”
It is the first time Meles has spoken to the international media on the ruling since the fate of Badme was definitively made known in March 2003.
Ethiopia is contesting the ruling and has called for changes to the decision. The 1998-2000 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia was triggered by a border skirmish in the village of Badme. Under the terms of the Algiers peace agreement in December 2000, they agreed to set up a boundary commission to mark out their territories under a legal “final and binding” ruling.
However, the prime minister stressed that the country would not go back to war – although he added that if attacked Ethiopia, would defend itself.
“We have made it abundantly clear that we will not shoot at anybody, Eritrea included,” Meles said. “The only circumstance where we may have to shoot is if shot at – that is the only circumstance.”
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has said that talks between both countries could help bolster the peace process. But the Eritrean government has dismissed any notion of dialogue on the border issue as “unthinkable”, telling IRIN that the matter is "closed and hermetically sealed".
The only exchanges take place at the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) talks between senior-ranking armed forces officials from the two countries under UN auspices.