Statement of the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the EU's conflicting statement regarding the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process

The European Union has issued a conflicting statement this week in regard to the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process.

The Government of Eritrea wishes to recall that it is four years now since Eritrea and Ethiopia singed the Comprehensive Algiers Peace Agreement under the auspices of the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity and other key witnesses including the United States, the European Union and leading African countries. The Algiers Peace Agreement revolves around these three cardinal tenets:

* Resolution of the border dispute by peaceful means with the formal signature of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement;

* Delimitation and Demarcation of the border through legal instruments;

* Solemn commitment by the parties to accept the Commission's legal ruling as final and binding without further recourse to a Court of Appeal or diplomatic mediation.

Article 14 of Algiers Agreement stipulates that the guarantors of the Agreement shall invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter to take punitive measures against the party that violates the provision of the Agreement. The underlying rationale for this explicit remedial action was the pattern of repeated violations of earlier agreements. The fact was Ethiopia had formally accepted the Framework Agreement, the Modalities of Implementation and Technical Arrangements at various junctures of the peace process only to reject them when it had made adequate military preparations and was about to launch its successive wars of aggression.

Ethiopia had and continues to violate the Algiers Peace Agreement this time round too and in spite of the punitive provisions embedded in the Algiers Agreement. Addis Abeba accepted the Boundary Commission decision with much fanfare when it was announced in April 2002 and even urged the international community to "pressurize" Eritrea to ensure expeditious implementation. A couple of months later, Ethiopia began to sing a different song and took several measures to obstruct demarcation and the field work of the Boundary Commission. Ethiopia took other provocative measures, including bringing new settlers to Badme and surrounding villages. And finally, on 19 September 2003, the Ethiopian Prime Minister rejected the Boundary Commission decision branding it as "irresponsible, illegal and unjust."

Unfortunately, the international community preferred to look sideways and to accommodate Ethiopia's violations rather than take credible action to ensure compliance. As the Ethiopian Foreign Minister reported to his Parliament in September this year, Addis Abeba "had never had it so good." In addition to massive humanitarian support, the international community provided Ethiopia with 970 million USD of assistance in the past year. A substantial part of the assistance is budgetary support or other fungible money that Ethiopia can easily divert to pursue its war objectives. In this respect, the problem is not only Ethiopia but those powers in the international community who have the necessary leverage to promote peace but are refraining from doing so.

The announcement made by Ethiopia last week is hollow in practice despite unwarranted statements made by some countries "welcoming it as a step forward." "Acceptance in principle" of the Boundary Commission decision that the Prime Minister continues to brand as "illegal and unjust" is not only one step backward. It constitutes a serious violation of the Algiers Agreement which stipulates, without equivocation, that the decision is "final and binding."

Furthermore, Ethiopia has made it abundantly clear that it will continue to obstruct demarcation. Payment of its arrears to the Boundary Commission and appointment of a Liaison Officer will be meaningless if, in the same breath, Ethiopia maintains that demarcation will not begin before and unless there is "dialogue" between the parties. The delimitation and demarcation of the boundary is not and cannot be predicated on "dialogue" or "normalization" of relations. The two sovereign nations may cultivate various levels of bilateral cooperation to promote mutual benefits. Although not desirable, they may also sever diplomatic ties. Whatever the case, this cannot, clearly, be a pre-requisite or sine qua non for demarcating the boundary of a sovereign nation. Eritrea finds linkages between demarcation of the boundary and other tangential issues of bilateral relationship both unacceptable and contrary to the provisions of the Algiers Agreement.

Moreover, this is not a time to entertain or float new initiatives or "proposals." This is a time to demarcate the boundary which should have happened much earlier in accordance with the Peace Agreement.

The international community, and particularly the Security Council, cannot employ different standards to violations of international law. We hardly need to emphasize that Ethiopia continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories illegally and forcibly. If the Security Council has adopted Resolution 1559 compelling Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, what are the moral standards for rationalizing its silence in the case of Ethiopia? This is the more puzzling since Syria's original presence in Lebanon appears to have resulted from a formal invitation of a sovereign Lebanese government.

We hardly need to stress the implications of Ethiopia's continued intransigence and the inexcusable attitude of major international powers. Eritrea has shown maximum patience and restraint at huge humanitarian and economic cost. We cannot accept the logic of force and accommodate Ethiopia's forcible occupation of our territory. We cannot accept the dislocation of our people and condemn them to live in makeshift camps for ever. We are long past the time for toothless diplomatic words. If the international community is really committed to promote regional peace and security, this is the time for meaningful action to compel Ethiopia to accept the Boundary Commission decision fully without equivocation or qualifications and to facilitate expeditious demarcation.

In the event, the Government of Eritrea urges the European Union to bring pressure to bear on Ethiopia so as to ensure the:

1. full unconditional respect of the Algiers Agreement;

2. full compliance with the Boundary Commission decision of April 13, 2002;

3. withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from sovereign Eritrean territories;

4. expeditious demarcation of the boundary.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3 December 2004