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Eritrea’s Afwerki blames US for Ethiopia border tensions

May 24, 2006 (ASMARA) — Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki held responsible the United States for the continuing stalemate over his country’s tense border with arch-rival Ethiopia.

Isaias_Afwerki1.jpgIsaias accused Washington of allowing Addis Ababa to ignore its legal obligation to accept a binding border revision as called for in the 2000 peace deal that ended the two countries’ bloody two-year frontier war.

In a speech marking the 13th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence from its much larger Horn of Africa neighbor, he said the United States was encouraging Ethiopia to flout international law by raising what he said were side issues.

“The US administration is in effect vouching for and encouraging (Ethiopia’s) defiance of international law,” Isaias said, vowing that Eritrea would hold to demands for the border ruling to be implemented.

“It is not possible to contemplate that the government and people of Eritrea will be derailed from the path of law and plunged into a deluding abyss,” he said.

Washington is “persistently attempting to lump together the cardinal issue … with secondary matters,” Isaias said.

While the “cardinal issue” for Eritrea is Ethiopia’s rejection thus far of the 2002 border demarcation by an international panel, the “secondary matters” refer to the status of the UN peacekeeping force monitoring the border upon which Asmara has slapped restrictions, including a ban on helicopter flights and limits on ground patrols.

Asmara has refused to lift those curbs in defiance of UN Security Council threats to impose sanctions unless they are removed, or possibly downgrade the mission by the end of this month.

A US-sponsored initiative to break the deadlock with new meetings of the international boundary commission has thus made little progress and diplomats say the council is likely to cut the mission in half.

The council has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in fully implementing the deal to end a war that cost some 80,000 lives.

Ethiopia has repeatedly called for the review of the border ruling, which awarded the flashpoint town of Badme to Eritrea, arguing it unfairly splits families and homes between the two countries.

Eritrea has rejected a review, arguing that the demarcation is final, and has loudly complained that the international community has not done enough to press Ethiopia to accept the decision.

(ST/AFP)

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