By Jonah Fisher
ASMARA, April 5 (Reuters) - Senior European
officials urged Eritrea on Monday to agree to meet a U.N. special envoy trying
to solve a border row with Ethiopia.
Eritrea has so far resisted talks with the
diplomat, saying it wanted the international community to do more to force
neighbouring Ethiopia to comply with an independent panel ruling on the
disputed 1,000-km (625-mile) frontier between them.
"We want to see the Ethiopian
government accept the decision of the Boundary Commission, and secondly we also
we want to see the special envoy interacting with the Eritrean
government," said Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, leading a European
Union delegation on a visit to the region.
The visitors had had "a very
constructive engagement on that point" in talks with Eritrean President
Isayas Afewerki in Asmara, Cowen told a news conference.
The Horn of Africa neighbours fought a
two-year war from 1998 in which 70,000 people were killed in combat reminiscent
of the trench warfare of World War One.
The peace process has faltered since
Ethiopia rejected the border inquiry's ruling just over a year ago that Badme,
the small town that triggered the conflict, belonged to Eritrea.
The United Nations later appointed former
Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy as a special envoy to try to break the
stalemate, but Eritrea called his appointment illegal and an attempt to appease
Diplomatic sources close to the EU
delegation said Eritrea had requested more information on Axworthy's role,
making clear he was only to be involved in implementing the border commission's
Axworthy met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi in Addis Ababa in February, but Afewerki refused to see him.
Cowen said Eritrea had articulated its
frustrations to the delegation.
"But I emphasised that the
international community is here to facilitate, to help, to assist, and not to
renegotiate and not to modify the decisions of the Boundary Commission."
Cowen's delegation includes Dutch
Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne and European Commission representatives.
The delegation is also due to hold talks in Addis Ababa with Meles.