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United States Sending Diplomatic Mission to Ethiopia, Eritrea

09 January 2006

U.N. Ambassador Bolton says goal is to complete border demarcation

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States is sending a high-level delegation to the horn of Africa for a diplomatic initiative to defuse political tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea and get the border demarcation process back on track, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton announced January 9.

After a private meeting with the Security Council, Bolton said that the United States is "prepared to undertake an initiative to see if we could move forward on the demarcation process" with a delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and General Carlton Fulford, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department regional center for security studies.

"I made it clear to the council there were no promises, no guarantees.  I did not want to overstate what we are undertaking," Bolton told journalists after the meeting.  "We were proceeding realistically here, but we felt that this kind of diplomatic initiative could bring movement on the underlying political dispute."

Bolton asked the Security Council not to take any action relating to the border dispute in order "not to send any signals politically or otherwise that might complicate" the mission.  He also requested the council, for the next 30 days, to "freeze the status quo" regarding Eritrea's recently imposed restrictions on Western military personnel serving in the U.N. peacekeeping mission (UNMEE) while the U.S. initiative proceeds. (See related article.)

The ambassador said he would keep the 15-nation Security Council informed on developments.

Ambassador Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, president of the Security Council, said that the council "is very pleased, indeed, by the initiative of the United States" and will await the outcome of the diplomatic efforts.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno also hailed the U.S. announcement as "essential."

"This very important engagement of a key member of the [Security] Council in the crisis is very welcome," Guehenno said.  "It gives a chance to diplomacy and, I think, now it is very important in the weeks ahead that the window that is open not be shut and every effort be made to take advantage of that diplomatic engagement to move the process forward."

"There is a sense of urgency and crisis in the council.  The status quo is unsustainable.  At the same time, there is also a recognition that one should not rush to precipitous decisions, that everything has to be done to avoid increasing the risks of the front line between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  So time has to be given for diplomacy," the undersecretary-general said.

The goal "is very clear to everybody," Guehenno said.  The border between the two countries has to be demarcated and relations between the two must be normalized.  Nevertheless, he added, "how you get there is extremely difficult."

Guehenno said he concluded after visiting the region recently that "the two countries by themselves will not resolve it.  There is a need for real engagement of the international community."

"The United States has solid relations with the two countries, has the clout and credibility to move the process forward," he said.  "This is a very difficult mission ... it has to be recognized there is never a certainty of success, but it should be very much appreciated that the U.S. is prepared to take the diplomatic risk to engage itself to move the region away from war.  That is what is needed."

Bolton said that the United States felt that the time was appropriate to undertake the serious diplomatic effort.

UNMEE deployment brought the issue to a critical point, but underlying political problems regarding the border demarcation have not been resolved, the U.S. ambassador said.  "The involvement by the United States has the prospect of possibly getting forward momentum."

"We want to move toward demarcation of the boundary," Bolton said.  The issue "goes to the question of the parties' fundamental agreement with the Algiers Accord of 2000.  If they are both still serious about that, if they are both committed to what they agreed to in 2000 then we should go forward with demarcation.  That is what we are going to try to do." The Algiers Accord of 2000 ended a two-year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that was waged because of the border dispute.

Bolton said that the United States also was open to having a meeting of all the parties, including the European Union representatives, who witnessed the signing of the 2000 Algiers Accord.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Africa.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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