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Eritrea - Geography

Eritrea has an area of 124,320 km2. Eritrea is located along the Red Sea, north of the Horn of Africa, between Djibouti and Sudan. Eritrea’s longest border is shared with Ethiopia to the south.

The country is divided into three main geographical zones: (1) the fertile and intensively farmed mountainous central plateau that varies from 1,800 to 3,000 masl; (2) the eastern escarpment and coastal plain which are mainly desert, and (3) semi-arid western lowlands. There are over 350 islands located along the coast of Eritrea within the Red Sea and the Dahlak Archipelago.

Some accounts claim that Eritrea has no year-round rivers. ther sources report that the Setit River is Eritrea’s only perennial waterway, albeit a non-navigable one. It flows from Ethiopia (where it is called the Tekezé) along the western border and into Sudan (where it is known as the Atbara). The other rivers in Eritrea, all of which are seasonal during the rainy season, are the Anseba, the Barka, and the Mareb, which is known as the Gash in its lower course in western Eritrea and which forms a part of the border between Eritrea and the Ethiopian province of Tigray.

Eritrea shares a 1,626-kilometer border with three states: Sudan to the north and west (605 kilometers), Ethiopia to the south (912 kilometers), and Djibouti to the southeast (109 kilometers).

In December 1995, Eritrea entered into a dispute with Yemen over claims to the Hanish Islands and fishing rights in the Red Sea. This dispute was resolved in 1999 when the islands were awarded to Yemen through international arbitration, and the Eritreans complied with the verdict. A territorial dispute along Eritrea’s border with Ethiopia erupted into conflict in 1998. Despite a cease-fire followed by a peace agreement in 2000 and the rendering of an arbitration decision by the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission in 2002 as part of the peace arrangements, the dispute has yet to reach a peaceful resolution.

Ethiopia has rejected parts of the arbitration decision and has called for dialogue, whereas Eritrea has called for implementation of the decision as a condition for dialogue. As of mid-2005, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea maintains approximately 3,300 troops in a 25-kilometer wide Temporary Security Zone on the Eritrean side of the disputed border in an effort to monitor the 2000 cease-fire.

Eritrea’s coastline is 2,234 kilometers long, with 1,151 kilometers along the Red Sea and 1,083 kilometers of island coastline in the Red Sea. Eritrea’s maritime claim in the Red Sea extends 12 nautical miles.

Less than 5 percent of the land in Eritrea is arable, and permanent crops occupy a mere 0.03 percent of total land area. Most land is suitable only for pastorage, but some areas, such as the Red Sea coast and the far north, are too arid even for this purpose.

Eritrea is a part of the arabian Nubian Shield, which is known to host valuable mineral deposits. the greenstone belt of Eritrea, which hosts base- and precious-metals deposits and occurrences, covers about 70% of the country. the greenstone belt contains volcanic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits, such as Adi Nefas, Bisha, Debarwa, and Emba Derho. Known gold mineralization predominately occurs in quartz veins and as disseminations within shear zones. All mineral resources in Eritrea were the property of the state, and licenses were required for the exploration and development of these resources.

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Page last modified: 03-06-2015 20:18:20 ZULU