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Eritrea rejects war, but patience thin in border row –president

Asmara, Eritrea - Jul 20, 2004 - Eritrea cannot sit back and watch while its sovereignty is violated and its territory still occupied by Ethiopia, Eritrean President Isayas said. He stressed that despite Ethiopia's "war-mongering", Eritrea did not see war as an option. In a live interview with Eritrean TV and radio, Isayas said international community should do more to force Ethiopia to honour border rulings. The following is an excerpt from the interview broadcast by Eritrean radio on 18 July; subheadings inserted editorially:

[Interviewer] Against the backdrop of what you have been explaining about the complications by the international community, the weyane [Ethiopian government] is saying that war is inevitable. However, analysis shows that its morale and capability of doing are at a low level. What are the factors pushing it into a war in which it will not succeed? While On the one hand it has rejected the EEBC's decision and occxupied our territory forcefully, it was at its lowest level of morale on the other. How are we going to legally defend our soveriegnty?

No reason to rush to war

[President Isayas] Could we sit back and watch while our sovereignty has been violated and our territory occupied? Talking of side issues by the international community is just like a joke. I will leave the answer to you. The other issue is about going to war. The experience we had in the past two years has confirmed something. We have been patient and waited against all odds to exhaust all that could be done for the sake of international law so that every action that should be taken could be taken. Our patience cannot continue indefinitely. As we have learnt from our experience in that past two years, there is nothing that could lead us to war. We are going to respect the rule of law and we shall make efforts to make sure that law and order are being respected. We have no reason to hurry to go to war.

Ethiopia will not respect Algiers Agreement

As I have explained earlier, the weyane cannot look into anything but war. It could not choose anything less. It is impossible for the weyane to respect the [Algiers] Agreements. We have clearly seen it through our two year's experience. The weyane has a principle of following the -die and let die- philosophy. Therefore, war is its only option. We could not claim that there will be no war as the choice is not ours and the issue is beyond our control, but we will continue with our efforts to legally resolve the problem. If war should be avoided, then it could not be achieved through weyane's wishes, but through pressure from the international community. The international community has a responsibility to ensure the implementation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission [EEBC] decision.

Words of threat by the weyane that war is inevitable is just a smokescreen to rejecting the EEBC decision. It is not for me to say whether the weyan has the strength to carry out war or not. The weyane has a naive way of thinking of getting political and diplomatic milage by trying to force Eritrea into war and gain international community's sympathy. We are not worried to know the strength of the weyane. What worries us is how to avoid any reason that would give the weyane the pretext, political or otherwise, that could give it the chance to start war. [Passage omitted: more repetitive sentences on the same].

USA global decision maker

[Interviewer] What is the reason behind the international community's wrong decision of supporting Ethiopia's stance of not implementing the EEBC decision? This shows the double standards the international community is using.

[Isayas] There are some issues the diplomats do not want to say. When we talk of the international community whom are we refering to? Who passes decisions at the UN Security Council in particular and in current global developments in general? There is one super power, the USA. The role and influence the US has in decision making at the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly is great. When we talk of the international community in relation to our issue we are referring to the US and other countries who have influence in our region. There are some issues that we have observed in the past short period of time. When we talk of international community we mean to ask the stance these countries take regarding issues concerning us. What type of influence could they have in implementing the EEBC decion and what role could they play in implementing it?

US role in peace process

As a rule, the major role of the international community is that of the USA. If we have to implement the EEBC decion and observe respect for international law, then the US should have a clear stance over this matter. It was the US that had been playing a big role in blocking the international community from coming up with a concrete decison over this matter. Initially the international community, had early this year, declared its support to decisions of the EEBC. Later on conflicting messages and statements were passed on. We were told later on that there are issues of Iraq, Afghanistan, election and other major issues to concentrate on border conflict with Ethiopia. By any standards these reasons could not be accepted. If we have to bring this issue to its logical conclusion, then we have to implement the decision of the EEBC and the US should play its role to either bring about lasting peace or push the whole process towards war.

US mistakes against Eritrea

If we look back into the history of our years of struggle and our national endeavours in the past, there are some mistakes that the US had committed in the late 90s. Our yardstick for the international community's achievements depends on the actions the US has taken on relevant issues. Even our development intiative are assessed in that light. [Passage omitted: more repetitive sentences on the same issue, on UN peacekeeping force].

Ethiopia and the opposition

[Interviewer] What do you think the future of Ethiopia and the strength of the opposition in the country would be?

[Isayas] It will take time to delve into Ethiopia's internal problems. But I will go into the important points. We can live without talking about the weyane. It is not important to talk about the weyane when we discuss our economic development and progress issues. If we have peace, then we can implement our development programmes. We do not want to talk about weyane, we have nothing that could force us talk about it. What forced us to talk about weyane was because of Badme [flashpoint of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war] and related issues.

Ethiopia is using the border problem as a political tool and Eritrea is being discussed at every forum that involves Ethiopia. The primary agenda in Ethiopia's foreign policy is the Eritrean issue. If Ethiopia's internal affairs should be managed properly, then the violation of international agreements should stop immediately.

Ethiopia "war-mongering"

Weyane's choice of war, weyane's war mongering, weyane's rejection of agreements is a reflection of its internal problems. There is talk that the Ethiopian people will not accept the EEBC decision and implementing this decision would bring about crisis in Ethiopia. This will not allow any mature politics to develop in Ethiopia. If mature politics is played in Ethiopia, then weyane could not survive. It always brings external problems into play for it to survive. It has to use Eritrea as a pretext. It has to be able to use the border conflict continiously.

As we have observed in the past two years, wyane's number one agenda in its dealings has been the Eritrean issue. The number one agenda in its foreign policy is the Eritrean issue. The weyane might think that it is gaining a politcal mileage, but the end result is going to bring its own downfall. [Passage omitted: more on weyane's internal problems and Eritrea's economic development activities].

Source: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara, in Tigrinya