Statement of the Cabinet of Ministers
18 February 2004

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea held its regular meeting from yesterday, 18 February 2004 until midday, today. The Cabinet of Ministers assessed recent developments in, and the present status of, the peace process and discussed the prioritisation and broad allocation of capital and recurrent budgets, within the framework of a sound and balanced annual budget, for the envisaged development programmes of the current (2004) fiscal year.

In regard to the peace process, the Cabinet of Ministers recalled that it is almost two years now since the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) announced its final and binding decision in accordance with the Algiers Agreements. The Boundary Commission has also issued detailed instructions and a specific time frame for the demarcation of the boundary on the basis of the mandate entrusted to it in the Algiers Agreements. The Cabinet underlined that non-compliance and intransigence of the TPLF authorities has kept all the decisions and express instructions of the Boundary Commission on hold and caused the flouting of the rule of law, thereby inducing tension and insecurity in our region.

The Cabinet of Ministers further stressed that the international community in general, and the guarantors and authors of the Algiers Agreements in particular, have moral and legal obligations to take active and constructive measures - from diplomatic, economic and military sanctions to forceful measures - to deter the reckless acts of the Ethiopian authorities and ensure the respect of the rule of law. Article 14 of the Algiers Agreements and Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations warrant these obligations.

A handling of the matter anchored on pampering and propping up the TPLF regime has not only delayed and obstructed timely demarcation – with all the risks that this entails - but it has put the peace process itself at the precipice of a dangerous complication. A clear manifestation of these misguided approaches is the appointment of a special envoy by the UN Secretary General and the pressures that are being visualised to bring to bear on Eritrea to accept the arrangement.

The Cabinet of Ministers asserted that the mandate given to the special envoy of the Secretary General is not consistent with the provisions of the Algiers Agreement. As such, it is not only illegal but it does not also have practical relevance.

-- In reference to the proposed mandate of the special envoy “to explore ways… to bring about implementation of the Boundary Commission decision”, the Cabinet noted that this is the mandate of the Commission alone. Furthermore, the Commission had long worked out detailed demarcation directions. Such a mandate thus raises fundamental legal issues and can only lead to complication.

-- In reference to “confidence-building measures and the normalisation of bilateral ties”, the Cabinet of Ministers underlined that this cannot be contemplated until the Ethiopian regime accepts and abides by the Boundary Commission decision; and actual demarcation is implemented and reaches an irreversible phase. This is an obvious and legal pre-requisite. It would not, thus, be appropriate to ask Eritrea to “set aside this issue and focus on dialogue” at this point in time. As such, the special envoy cannot be assigned to this function.

The Cabinet of Ministers asserted that the Government of Eritrea cannot accept, under these circumstances, an “arrangement or mechanism” that will undermine the Agreements it has signed and that will plunge the peace process into a new and vicious cycle in spite of its commitments and unreserved efforts to ensure the respect of the rule of law and to promote peace and stability in our region. The Cabinet underlined that the Government of Eritrea has no legal authority to compromise the sovereignty of the country.

The Cabinet of Ministers noted that certain countries which have stated publicly that the decision of the Boundary Commission is “final and binding” urging for its “full implementation… without qualification and delay” cannot now maintain, so as to appease and prop up the Ethiopian regime, “the government that does not engage the envoy… will face international isolation”. This cannot be justified, legal or acceptable.

In conclusion, the Cabinet of Ministers called for demarcation to start promptly on the basis of the decision of the Boundary Commission and under its auspices so that the rule of law and international law will be respected and for peace and stability to prevail in our region. To this end, the Cabinet of Ministers urged the international community to shoulder its legal obligations instead of accommodating the violations of the Ethiopian regime.

The Cabinet of Ministers
19 February 2004