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ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: EU calls for confidence-building measures

ADDIS ABABA, 19 December 2003 (IRIN) - The European Union has stepped up a “twin track” approach aimed at resolving the stalled peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea, officials said on Friday.

Italian ambassador Guido La Tella told journalists that the two countries should both abide by the three-year-old Algiers peace deal and engage in dialogue.

An independent boundary commission was set up under the accord to establish an internationally recognised frontier but Ethiopia has rejected the ruling as flawed.

And the only time Ethiopia and Eritrea hold face-to-face talks is during military meetings hosted by the United Nations.

Eritrea has refused a dialogue until the border ruling – which was issued in April 2002 - has been implemented.

Senior European diplomats told IRIN they believed there had been a “deterioration” of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and a more proactive approach was needed.

Guido La Tella said both countries appeared to be “hardening their positions” over the stalled peace process which followed their bloody two year conflict.

The ambassador, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, also said dialogue should start immediately.

“We think that it is bad this absence of dialogue between the two parties," the ambassador said on the eve of the presidency shifting to Ireland at the end of the month.

“It is a matter of concern and we have invited both parties to identify specific areas of common interest where confidence-building measures can be adopted.”

"As yet neither side has come up with concrete measures," the ambassador added.

He added that “no link” had been made between cutting development aid to either country if the border issue remained unresolved.

La Tella also said it was vital that a special envoy, due to be appointed soon, was in place to push the peace process forward.

“All we want is stability in this region and we are willing to do whatever to help,” the ambassador said from his embassy in Addis Ababa.

The UN peacekeeping force has said that a special envoy would add weight to ongoing diplomatic moves to keep the peace deal on track.

Speculation, both in the Ethiopian media and abroad, is mounting that former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy will be appointed to the role.

Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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