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Eritrean president warns border situation "turning into a very dangerous one"


Asmara, Eritrea; Jul 19, 2004 - Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has warned that the situation in the border dispute with Ethiopia is now turning into "a very dangerous one". In a two-hour-and-twenty-minute live interview he gave to state radio and television, he also called for the implementation of the ruling by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. The following is the first part of a series of texts to filed from the interview broadcast by Eritrean radio on 18 July; subheadings inserted editorially


[Interviewer] Dear listeners, we will now have a live interview with President Isayas Afewerki through the Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea and the Eritrean television on the prevailing political, economic and diplomatic situation and other related issues. First, I would like to thank you President Isayas Afewerki on behalf of listeners for sparing your precious time to accept our invitation. Let us first start our questions with the campaign of reconstructing the country under way at a time when we are in a relative peaceful situation, and then we go to the second question about ensuring the demarcation of the border [with Ethiopia] in accordance with the decision made by the border commission [Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, EEBC]. Let me start with second one. There have been complicated situations in the border demarcation process. An issue of dialogue was raised first and later on came the issue of a special envoy of the [UN] secretary-general. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently visited Eritrea. So are there any new developments in the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia?


[President Isayas, first few words indistinct], however, the point is that over two years have elapsed since the decision of the EEBC was made. The implementation of this decision is the responsibility and obligation of the international community. It has been explained, at various occasions, why the international community did not play the role it should have played. The weyane's [Ethiopian government] rejection [of the EEBC ruling] is not something new. The weyane's rejection of the ruling should not surprise anybody. We all know the euphoria and the statements issued by the weyane when the ruling was made. Nobody who knew very well the characteristics of the weyane was deceived then, because all the weyane did then was just a public relations gimmick. The jealous weyane never likes anything good in Eritrea.


It was not difficult for anyone to guess where the ruling, whether good or bad, would lead Eritrea, and what kind of a situation would have brought about in Ethiopia. But, can the weyane survive in such a situation? It cannot. The weyane does not wish to see anything good that will benefit all Ethiopians as well. This cannot surprise us, because we know very well that the essence of the rejection of the ruling and the creation of obstacles for its implementation is the weyane's characteristics. The question is the role of the international community in implementing the ruling. The international community agreed to take on its obligations on the agreement signed [between Eritrea and Ethiopia]. The agreement binds not only Eritrea and Ethiopia, but also the international community as well. It is the international community itself that included the final and binding concept into the peace agreement. If we ask why the ruling has not been implemented for two years, it is because of the weakness of the international community.


Situation turning into "a very dangerous one"


Now the situation is turning into a very dangerous one. The game is not being played by the weyane only. There was an issue of [words indistinct] or dialogue. Then came finally the issue of the [UN] secretary-general's special envoy. It is obvious that the issue of dialogue came as a public relations gimmick. Our policy on these issues was not to enter into a public relations bickering. Questions should be asked about every issue that is raised. Dialogue on what? You cannot discuss a final and binding ruling. You cannot discuss the implementation of the ruling. [Sentence indistinct]. Perhaps a lot was said over the past two years in the name of normalization of relations between the two countries, creating an environment of cooperation, confidence building, and many more. However, they all blew like a balloon as they arose.


It was understandable that the issue of dialogue was raised with the aim of getting rid of the of boundary commission and subsequently killing the ruling. Everybody has realized that the issue is just to kill the ruling and enter into an endless game. What the weyane expected when it rejected the ruling was for the UN to create a new mechanism to revise the issue afresh by dissolving the boundary commission and throwing away the ruling. A new mechanism cannot be created. The [UN] secretary-general, any superpower or the international community have no power or authority to do that. It is a legally concluded issue.


Border ruling unchangeable


Later came the issue of a special envoy of the secretary-general. In a usual diplomatic political language, there is a concept that any issue you want to kill, you just direct it to investigations or mediators. Experience shows that this does not work always. What is a special envoy going to do? He cannot replace the boundary commission. He cannot arrange details of implementation of the ruling. He cannot do anything on the boundary decision. Nobody can change the ruling. So what we are saying is that what is the special envoy going to do? His mandate should be clearly explained. What can the special envoy do? No answer has so far been given to this question.


Cancellation of special envoy's appointment


It was a good occasion when the [UN] secretary-general came here recently. What we exchanged has been documented, there was nothing new from what I said earlier. We asked [Kofi Annan] what the mandate of the special envoy will be so that we accept or reject him. However, no definitive answer was given. It was said: Yes, he cannot change the final and binding decision. He cannot discuss details of its implementation arrangement, and he cannot mediate as well. What is he going to do then? Just to create a conducive diplomatic atmosphere. What is conducive diplomatic atmosphere? There is a ruling by the boundary commission and it has to be implemented. [Sentence indistinct]. This is not a political issue. It is a legal issue, black and white. All this was discussed with the secretary-general during his recent visit here. The secretary-general did not have an explanation. The talks were short. Then he said: If it is like this, I will cancel the appointment of the special envoy.


We cannot say you cancel it or not. It does not concern us. We told him that we cannot accept a special envoy just because he was being dispatched. We cannot accept him before knowing what he will be mandated with. So what we understood from the secretary-general's visit is that the idea of the special envoy (?has aborted). On our side, we do not care whether it is cancelled or not. The boundary ruling has been in suspense for two years now. The international community and the UN at large have not fulfilled their obligations. Its implementation should be speed up, otherwise the issue is turning into a very dangerous one.

Diversionary issues


Attempts to complicate the matter by bringing diversionary issues will not trick us. Attempting to trick one into a trap is not only a mockery but also an affront. We will not be tricked into such a trap. What I affirmed to the secretary-general in a letter I sent him earlier was that nobody should expect us to be tricked into a trap. We are not fools to ignore the basic issue to entertain a dialogue or meet a special envoy of the secretary-general. No body should expected such naivety from us.

Issue of special envoy closed


If there is a desire for peace to the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples and desire for regional stability, there is only one solution - to respect the agreements and implement the ruling. Any other trapping or time-buying tactics will only harm their inventors. So with the recent visit here by the secretary-general, on our side, the issue of a special envoy is closed.

Source: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara, in Tigrinya 1700 gmt 18 Jul 04