Warning of possible war over demarcation
ASMARA, ERITREA, 10 Dec 2004 (AFP) - Eritrea and Ethiopia could go to
war again if the long-running border dispute between the two Horn of Africa
nations is not settled, a senior Eritrean official has warned.
"We've been patient, but the current situation is not sustainable
indefinitely. The blame cannot be limited to Ethiopia alone, but part of it
must also go to the international community that has not forced Addis Ababa to
respect the border demarcation," Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki's
chief of staff Yemane Gebremeskel told AFP in Asmara on Thursday.
"Preventive diplomacy is meaningless if it has no influence,"
Yemane said, warning that four years after their 1998-2000 border war, the
current situation of "no peace, no war cannot last for ever."
After their border war, the two countries signed a peace accord in 2000,
under which they pledged to respect as "final and binding" the demarcation
that was later pronounced in April 2002 by an independent Eritrea-Ethiopia
Border Commission (EEBC).
Since September 2003, Ethiopia has rejected the demarcation, but late last
month, it said it had finally accepted the "principle" of the EEBC's
ruling, but called for "adjustments," which Eritrea has rejected.
"Ethiopia is trying to do as if it has a new proposal, but there is
already an agreement signed between the two parties. Ethiopia wants to portray
itself as coming up with new ideas and that Eritrea was refusing them,"
"The Ethiopian government now says it accepts 85 percent of the
demarcation, but a partial demarcation is not acceptable legally, as it makes
no sense practically," Yemane said.
"The media focuses too much about comments on comments and forgets the
essential facts, that there is a final and binding demarcation and it must be
implemented," Yemane added.
The European Union has described the Ethiopian proposal as
"positive," but the US has still not reacted to it.
Yemane also said that if the demarcation was implemented tomorrow,
"Eritrea would demobilise its forces to a very small army."
Diplomats in Asmara estimate that the Eritrean army comprises more than
300,000 soldiers, out of a total population of about 3,5 million people,
although the size of the force has not been divulged officially.
Eritrea fought a 30-year war of independence against Ethiopia from