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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

AFRICA: Seek peace and prosperity - Schroeder

ADDIS ABABA, 19 January 2004 (IRIN) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called on African leaders to help transform the continent from one beset by "wars and crises" into one blessed with peace and prosperity. Speaking during his first visit to Africa as Germany's leader, he said on Monday that the continent was blighted by the greatest proliferation of armed conflicts in the world, wrecking the lives of millions.

"We all agree that freedom, prosperity and sustainable development can only be achieved in a secure environment," Shroeder stated in a speech delivered at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

His five-day tour of Africa – where almost 300 million people live below the poverty line - started in Ethiopia, from where he will proceed to Ghana, South Africa and Kenya.

Schroeder stated that with the establishment of the AU and the New Partnership for Africa's Development the foundation was now in place to end the continent’s conflicts. "On this foundation, Africa has a chance to finally benefit from the advantages of increasing global economic integration."

He went on to say that the powerful G8 was under a "moral" imperative to boost trade and development, a process which made both political and economic sense for the rest of the world. "No one can live in security if there is insecurity and strife in the neighbourhood," he stressed.

The EU has pledged €225 million (about US $275) to help peace initiatives on the continent, and Germany has backed peacekeeping-training centres in Africa.

Earlier, Schroeder had praised Ethiopia for its support in the fight against global terrorism and welcomed the country's contribution towards resolving regional conflicts, noting in this context that Ethiopian peacekeepers had been deployed in strife-ridden Liberia and in Burundi, currently emerging from a decade of civil war.

During a private meeting, he and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi discussed the stalled three-year-old peace process between Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea. Fears have been growing that without a breakthrough, tensions between the two countries could once again flare up into hostilities.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody two-year border war that ended in a peace deal in December 2000. Under the agreement an independent boundary commission was set up to resolve their border dispute and defuse the tensions between them.

But Ethiopia is contesting elements of the commission’s ruling, one of which placed Badme, the town where the war first flared up, in Eritrea, and another that Ethiopia hand over parts of Irob. Ethiopia says the ruling could serve to ignite renewed conflict, and has called for a "broad-based dialogue" with Eritrea, which, for its part, has rejected such talks until the physical demarcation of the border begins.

"Like most countries, Germany believes that the decision of the boundary commission is legal and binding," Meles told journalists. "Germany also believes that this problem should be resolved peacefully and through dialogue," he added at a press conference in the National Palace in Addis Ababa.

"I completely agree with the chancellor on the need to avoid war by every means possible. I agree completely with the chancellor that this problem should be resolved by peaceful and peaceful means only through dialogue and in a spirit of compromise," Meles said.

Shroeder’s visit to Addis Ababa comes as Western powers are bringing mounting pressure to bear on both Ethiopia and Eritrea to end the deadlock.

Chris Mullin, the UK’s Foreign Office Minister for Africa, is also currently visiting the two countries to address the border dispute.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto has just ended a second visit to Ethiopia, after meeting Meles in a quest for a solution to the problem. Yamamoto also visited Eritrea and met President Isayas Afewerki in the same context.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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