(SA PRESS ASSOC) 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 warned on Thursday.
“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 said in Asmara.
“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).
‘Preventive diplomacy is meaningless if it has no influence’ Since September 2003, Ethiopia has rejected the demarcation, but late in November, 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,” Yemane said.
“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 United States 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 1961-1991.