wants "adjustments" on Eritrean border
NAIROBI, December 6, 2004 (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Monday it
would seek minor adjustments "on the ground" when its border with
former foe Eritrea is demarcated, saying such changes would avert future
tension with its small neighbour.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, speaking during a visit to
Kenya, appeared to reinforce a suggestion he made on Friday that the border's
most contentious areas could be subject to negotiation. The international
community says that goes against promises both countries made to accept an
independent commission's border ruling in its entirety.
Western powers are anxious to stave off further border conflict
between the two Horn of Africa countries, whose 1998-2000 war over the frontier
killed an estimated 70,000 people.
"We suggest that we accept the boundary commission decision
even if we feel it is wrong and illegal," Meles told a news conference.
"We accept it and move towards implementation. When we
implement it, we feel we can make minor adjustments on the ground so that we do
not create points of friction at some stage in the future."
He did not say whether it was the border line itself that Ethiopia
wanted to adjust or such things as roads or power lines, which might be
affected by a demarcation.
Ethiopia agreed last month to accept in principle the boundary
suggested by an independent commission in 2002, which it had previously
rejected, but said it wanted "dialogue" with Asmara on how to
implement the ruling in the estimated 15 percent of the 1,000-km (600-mile)
border that is contentious.
Eritrea, which agreed to the ruling soon after it was published,
has repeatedly said there is no point in dialogue and the ruling has to be
implemented in full.
UN peacekeepers patrol a 25-km (15-mile)-wide buffer zone between
Eritrean and Ethiopian territory.
Eritrea says Meles's proposals for dialogue and other ideas about
how to normalise relations are "hollow".
Meles was adamant it was now up to Eritrea to seize the
initiative. "I have put on the table a set of proposals and how we proceed
from here depends on how our brothers in Eritrea would want us to
proceed," he said.
"They think the proposals are hollow. Everyone is entitled to
their opinion, and we respect that, but it is not an opinion shared by others,
including the EU, China Japan and others.
"We hope their (Eritrea's) opinion does not preclude any
further thinking on this issue."