The border conflict has been resolved legally. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) unanimously resolved the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia on April 13, 2003 on the basis of the Algiers Agreement of 2000. Ethiopia has since rejected the final and binding decision of the Commission, whose members were selected in consultation with and with the approval of both governments. Ethiopia is now arrogantly challenging the EEBC, the UN Security Council, the guarantors of the Agreement and the International Community. The rule of law cannot be defied nor the final and binding decision reversed because Ethiopia is not satisfied with the outcome of the verdict or because it did not get what it wanted.

Ethiopia's rejection of the EEBC's final and binding decision and its calls for "dialogue" are cover-ups for its violation of the Algiers Agreement and serve only to delay the demarcation process. The question of dialogue cannot be entertained while Ethiopia flagrantly violates the Algiers Agreement and continues to impede the demarcation of the border as endorsed by the UN Security Council. Once demarcation has been completed, only then can confidence be restored between the two countries and the issue of dialogue raised. A country that flouts international law and labors to undo a UN Security Council endorsed and internationally guaranteed final and binding agreement cannot be expected or trusted to honor agreements reached through "dialogue and mediation." Justice and the rule of law must first be enforced.

Arguments and analyses such as "Meles will be overthrown, Ethiopia will be plunged into crisis, etc." carry no validity and are irrelevant to the upholding of international law. Such statements are diversions and scare tactics propagated by the TPLF regime and its supporters meant to remove accountability from the regime's legal obligations. The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia want to see an end to this debilitating conflict and to be able to move forward to tackle their real challenges, poverty and famine. Serious regional observers and experts agree that the present minority regime in Ethiopia, although unpopular, is not facing any imminent danger of dissolution as a result of the border demarcation. Therefore, accepting the border decision and implementing it will not lead to the overthrow of Meles or the fragmentation of Ethiopia. Ethiopia's internal problems are not justifiable causes for the scuttling and reversing of final and binding international arbitration.

Inconveniences that may be created by the resettlement of populations dislocated or affected by the demarcation is not a legitimate excuse for rejecting the demarcation of the border. Estimates show that 20-30 thousand people and 30-50 villages will be affected by the border demarcation. In comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who will perish, be wounded and displaced and the millions of dollars of property destroyed in the event of war, the resettlement of 20-30 thousand people and the transfer of 30-50 villages are not unmanageable problems. The International Community is already providing humanitarian assistance to more than 15 million Ethiopians and 2 million Eritreans. In fact, the regime in Ethiopia has embarked on a massive internal resettlement program involving 2 million people to be financed by international donors, with the purported aim of moving communities away from drought-prone areas of the country, away from their ancestral villages and burial grounds.

The International Community's complacency towards the timely implementation of the decision and demarcation of the border is what is giving rise to Ethiopia's irreverence of international law and its cowering behind the cover of "dialogue." Furthering the interests of major powers and the global fight against terrorism are not suitable justifications for allowing Ethiopia to violate international law and the EEBC's decision. Not enforcing the UN Security Council's Resolutions on the border demarcation and its expeditious implementation will present serious ramifications for the peace and stability of the region and the world. It will also throw into question the legitimacy of international agreements and the credibility of the UN to resolve international conflicts.

Appeasing Ethiopia's illegal actions and allowing it to violate international law are what will serve as the root causes of future conflicts and not the demarcation of the border. Once the border is demarcated, no justifiable causes for war will exist that cannot be addressed through dialogue and bilateral cooperation. This is the way forward for lasting peace between the two countries. As such, the regular meetings of the Ethiopia-Kenya Border Commission can be viewed as good examples of how minor border incidences arising from localized disputes can be handled peacefully.

The only solution is to hold the rejecting party, Ethiopia, responsible for its actions and to apply the appropriate punitive measures. Article 14 of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement clearly states: " . . . the OAU and the UN commit themselves to guarantee the respect for this commitment of the parties. This guarantee shall be comprised of measures to be taken by the International Community should one or both parties violate this commitment, including the appropriate measures to be taken under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations by the Security Council."

The TPLF regime in Ethiopia should not be allowed to hold justice, the economic development of the region and UN peacekeeping operations hostage. With 65% of its national budget dependent upon foreign aid, 15 million of its people starving and 15% of its population affected by HIV/AIDS, the Tigrayan led regime in Ethiopia must not be allowed to squander the meager resources of this poor country. The International Community should not also blindly tolerate the diversion of contributions from taxpaying citizens of the world for the procurement of military armament from Russia, North Korea, Yemen, etc. The diversion of humanitarian and development assistance from its intended recipients, as in this case, is rampant and its use to finance wars and corruption are deplorable.

Embassy of Eritrea Washington, DC
3 December 2003