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Eritrea/Ethiopia: Axworthy relegates EEBC to central role player

16 Jan 2005, EDnews – Following the signing of the Algiers peace accord, Eritrea and Ethiopia established the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and conferred upon it the sole and exclusive authority to delimit and demarcate (implement) their shared border.

Briefing journalists in Addis Ababa yesterday, UN envoy L. Axworthy on his own and willfuly relegated the EEBC to mere ‘central role player’, ‘primary vehicle’, and ‘part of the solution that has yet to be found’ in barefaced denial and negation of the Algiers Agreement and the existence of the solution in the form of the border decision of 13 April 2002,

Diplomats say that this is consistent with Mr. Axworthys remarks that “ The EEBC has done its job and needs to move on, now its decision needs to be developed”, which he made even before he was appointed to the position he now holds and is Axworthy’s attempt to udermine the EEBC and to deprive it of its exclusive authority over the matter. Following is text of the full report: 

Kofi Annan’s special envoy to the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Lloyd Axworthy reemphasized once again that the primary vehicle to reaching peace is still the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and it remains to be a central part of the solution that has to be found. The Special Envoy, briefing journalists yesterday, refrained from expressing any endorsement of the new peace initiative embarked upon by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi but said he’d work to build on it.

Visiting Ethiopia for the first time since the new peace initiative was made public, Axworthy stressed the importance of taking the new proposal seriously even though it calls for a broader dialogue “that will include issues that go beyond the Boundary Commission.” “But,” he said, “you can’t ignore the Boundary Commission.” For him, the Commission “is still a central part of the solution that has to be found.”

Shedding light on the work the Commission, Axworthy, who met with the chairman of the Commission on his way to Ethiopia, recalled the resolution by the Security Council on Dec. 21st last year calling on both parties to get together and for the Commission to provide guidance to these parties as they work towards the implementation process. This, according to him, has been interpreted by the Commission “as a signal from the United Nations’ Security Council that (the Commission) should get reengaged.” He was, however, reticent on whether that would involve revisiting its decision.

Axworthy also disclosed that the purpose of his visit was to explore ways on how “to build on (the new) initiatives and see how we can advance the work of discussion and that of the Commission towards getting a real engagement between the two parties.” Asked whether Meles’s new peace initiative will enable him to break the deadlock in the peace process, the Special Envoy preferred to stress the need to build on it. As to breaking the deadlock, he said, “ultimately there are only two people who can come to grips with that and these are the leaders of the two countries.” He described his job as exploring ways to bring the two parties to the table and the reengagement of the Boundary Commission.

Asked whether there has been any “traction” on the Eritrean side, Axworthy said that “That’s one of the unknowns.” According to him, the task of bringing these two countries together has never been easy and the refusal by Eritrea to allow him access to its officials has not been helping. “There’s no doubt that having access to the leadership in Eritrea would have made this process easier,” he lamented. And he also tried to assure the Eritreans once again that his appointment as a special envoy to the conflict is not in anyway diverting the role of the Boundary Commission. He then implied that he’s conducting a sort of communication with the Eritreans by proxy. “I may be flying with one wing but I’m still flying,” he remarked.

On the question of the U.S. government’s silence on the new peace proposal, Axworthy confessed to not knowing the reasons for it but divined that it may be due to caution. “I think they’re waiting to see just what the outcome would be,” he said, “They wanted to see if this in fact was a change in position.” He added that the Americans are analyzing the new proposal carefully.

According to the UN special Envoy, the continuing conflict situation between the two countries is costing their peoples dearly in terms further deteriorating their level of poverty. He quoted one rough estimate as putting at 15 million the number of Ethiopians doomed not to rise above the poverty line because of the conflict situation. He didn’t, however, have any information on the economic impact the conflict is having on the Eritrean side

Story from ‘the Ethiopian reporter, posted on its website on 15 Jan 2005