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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: Addis dismisses possibility of renewed hostilities

ADDIS ABABA, 16 July 2003 (IRIN) - Ethiopia is launching a strategy of peaceful containment of Eritrea, according to a national foreign policy document being drawn up by the prime minister’s office.

The widely-circulated draft document, entitled 'Ethiopia's Policy and Strategy on Foreign Affairs and National Security', stresses the need for deepening democracy and economic development. These are described as the "lynchpin" of Ethiopia's foreign policy.

Regarding relations with Eritrea, the document dismisses any renewed hostilities unless provoked by its neighbour. It describes the current government in Eritrea as an "obstacle" to improved ties between the countries, but notes that any regime change should be left to the Eritrean people.

“The problem is created by the group in power,” states the report.

Official sources told IRIN that discussions are still taking place on whether Ethiopia will normalise relations after both “regime change and policy change” in Eritrea, or if normalisation can occur with either “regime change or policy change”.

The report also plays down economic advantages of normalisation and adds that Eritrea, under its current leadership, has “minimal” impact on Ethiopian development.

It states that while Ethiopia would benefit from access to seaports on the Eritrean coast, its neighbour would gain from Ethiopia’s considerable market and hydroelectric power.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 – unanimously ratifying the decision in 1993 in a countrywide referendum. But by 1998, relations between the two had soured and a two-year border war erupted costing both sides millions of dollars in lost revenue and thousands of lives.

Relations have remained in deep freeze ever since, despite a peace deal and the presence of a 4,200 strong UN peacekeeping force.

The document stresses Ethiopia's commitment to the Algiers peace accord of December 2000, which among other issues, established an independent boundary commission to rule on a new border between the countries.

“From the Ethiopian side,” the document says, “it would not cause any considerable negative effect on our principal aims, if the two countries manage to last for a long time without going to war and also without building any relations.”

It warns of the “considerable price" paid by Ethiopia for the bitter conflict, adding that while it should avoid hostilities, it should strengthen its standing and reserve army.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict



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