US diplomat to discuss Ethiopian peace proposal with Eritrea
ASMARA, Eritrea, Dec 06, 2004
(AFP) - US diplomat for African affairs Donald Yamamoto was Monday in Eritrea
to discuss with authorities a new Ethiopian proposal aimed at breathing life
into a stalled peace process, the US embassy said.
"The talks will concern bilateral
questions but also the recent Ethiopian declaration," an embassy official
told by phone in Asmara.
Yamamoto, the deputy assistant secretary
of state for African affairs, arrived in Asmara on Friday night.
Last month, lawmakers in Addis Ababa
overwhelmingly adopted a five-point plan to kickstart the peace process between
the two countries, which fought a bitter border war between 1998-2000.
The highlight of the plan was the acceptance
in principle of the 2002 ruling by a special commission on the exact path of
the border, a decision Addis Ababa had adamantly rejected since September 2003.
But Asmara insists that until Ethiopia
actually "withdraws from sovereign Eritrean territories" the plan is
one of the "futile attempts... solely aimed at promoting public relations
exercises and buying more time."
Again Monday, Eritrea poured cold water on
"There is nothing new in the
Ethiopian proposition and we cannot negotiate what is 'final and
binding'," said Foreign Minister Ali Said's chief of staff Ahferom Berhane
on the phone in Asmara.
The decision of the the commission was
supposed to be "final and binding", according to an Algiers peace
deal that ended the two year war.
But the US official said: "We don't
immediately intend to react to the Ethiopian declaration... If you're not
careful, you end up with a battle of competing statements, and that would not
be helpful right now."
But diplomats expect Yamamoto to change
the hearts of Eritrean officials.
"Mr Yamamoto must obtain quite
quickly a more positive response from Asmara to the Ethiopian proposal. If
nothing comes out of this meeting, that will be a bad sign," said one
diplomat, who did not want to be named.