ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: EU welcomes Ethiopia's acceptance of border ruling, urges Eritrea to respond
EU's Javier Solana
NAIROBI, 26 November 2004 (IRIN) - The European Commission (EU) has welcomed the announcement by Ethiopia on Thursday that it had accepted "in principle" an April 2002 decision by an independent commission that ruled on the demarcation of its border with Eritrea.
Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said in a statement issued in Brussels by his spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, that the announcement "removes doubts that had emerged following Ethiopia's previous objections to the demarcation of the border".
"Solana is particularly encouraged by Ethiopia's acceptance to start with the demarcation of the border and its appointment of field liaison officers to facilitate this task," the EU added. "He hopes that Ethiopia's decision will lead to a speedy start of the demarcation of the border and thus contribute to breaking the stalemate in the peace process."
The boundary commission was set up by Ethiopia and Eritrea under a December 2000 peace agreement that ended a two-year war in which as many as 70,000 people were killed. Ethiopia rejected the ruling shortly after its announcement and the actual demarcation of the border was suspended indefinitely.
In particular, Ethiopia rejected a decision to award the symbolic border town of Badme, where the war flared up in May 1998, to Eritrea. Eritrea subsequently declined to enter into dialogue with Ethiopia, calling on its neighbour to implement the border ruling in full.
The EU said Solana "encourages the government of Eritrea to respond positively to Ethiopia's offer of talks about the root causes of the conflict, with a view of normalising relations between the two countries".
However, the Eritrean government, in a press statement issued on Thursday by its Ministry of Information, said that the Ethiopian announcement was aimed "at promoting public relations exercises and buying more time".
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had told the Ethiopian parliament on Thursday that his government would end its opposition to the commission’s ruling on the 1000-km border.
Meles insisted, however, that the ruling was still "illegal and unjust" and that any attempt to implement it "might lead to a serious escalation of the tension between the two countries and thereby undermine the peace".
In a 35-minute speech, the Ethiopian leader called for the "root causes" of the conflict to be resolved through dialogue to help end border tensions and normalise relations.
"Durable and sustainable peace is, moreover, in the mutual interest of the two peoples," he said. "Normalisation and good neighbourliness between the two countries is in the interest of peace and in their mutual interest."