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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 8 March 2004

ERITREA: Government denies soliciting for Nigerian mediation

NAIROBI, 8 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - The Eritrean government has denied soliciting for Nigerian mediation in its border conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia.

In a statement, the Eritrean embassy in Nigeria said contrary to reports in the Nigerian daily, The Guardian, on 3 March, the Eritrean government had not sought any assistance from that country to intervene in the matter, because it regarded the April 2002 ruling of the boundary commission as "final and binding".

Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeneji was quoted by international media last week as saying that Eritrea had asked his country to intervene in the dispute. "We do not know the source, particularly as it was not signed, or the underlying motivation," the Eritrean statement said of the article entitled "Eritrea seeks Nigeria's help to avert war with Ethiopia".

"The article was a misrepresentation of the facts," it added.

Eritrea, however, confirmed that a meeting took place between its ambassador to Nigeria, Daniel Yohannes, and Adeneji, to whom the former had delivered a "standard" message from President Isayas Afeworki to his Nigerian counterpart "as part of Eritrea's routine diplomatic activities to keep to keep African heads of states informed of the situation of the peace process".

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody two-and-a-half-year war over their 1,000-km border, ending in a peace accord signed in Algeria in 2000. Under the deal, an independent boundary commission, based in The Hague, was set up to defuse tensions by demarcating the border.

Ethiopia, however, rejected the commission's ruling, terming it "illegal" for placing Badme, a symbolic border town over which the war broke out, in Eritrea. Ethiopia's reaction has created a deadlock, prompting the boundary commission to suspend its operations.

Eritrea supports the commission's decision. "Both countries are bound by the treaty to accept and implement in good faith the decision of the boundary commission," the statement added.


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