After protracted prevarication, Ethiopia has now formally and officially rejected the April 2002 border decision. In a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, dated September 19, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles stated categorically that it was "unimaginable" for Ethiopia to accept the border decision.
In rejecting the border decision, Ethiopia has also violated the December 2000 Algiers Agreement, in which it committed itself to respect the outcome of the border arbitration as "final and binding." Ethiopia is also in clear breach of UN Security Council resolutions calling on both parties to fully accept and implement the Border ruling as well as all decisions of the Border Commission.
But Ethiopia has not only thrown to the wind the Algiers Agreement, the border ruling and UN Security Council resolutions. It has also threatened war unless the ruling is reversed and Ethiopia gets its way. In his three-page letter, Meles intimates twice to war. He first characterizes the border decision as "a recipe for continued instability, and even recurring wars,"
and then, more ominously states that the decision "could inevitably lead the two countries into another round of fratricidal war."
Even while flagrantly flouting repeated UN Security Council resolutions, Ethiopia has the temerity to feign interest in peace. Its call for an alternative mechanism to "salvage" the peace is a transparent ruse to absolve itself of its culpability of wrecking the peace agreement. It merely wants the UN Security Council to pick up the debris after it has torn the agreement to pieces.
While Ethiopia's rejection is now formal and clear-cut, it has been apparent for some time. Yet, the international community chose to give Ethiopia time to help it to accept and implement the decision. That careful approach, despite its best motives, has once again proved counter-productive. It has only served to deepen the Ethiopian regime's belief that it can defy the international community with impunity. It has brought us to a situation, where a peace edifice that has been carefully built over several years has crumbled and Ethiopia is once again threatening war.
Clearly the time has come for the international community, and specifically the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement, to shoulder their responsibilities. Eritrea, which has scrupulously respected the Agreement, accepted the border decision, and shown tremendous restraint and patience, now calls on the international community to:-
- Invoke Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which the Algiers Agreement calls for in the event of violation by any one of the parties;
- Declare that Ethiopia's violation of the Agreement, its rejection of the border decision, its breach of UN Security Council Resolutions, and its threat of war, constitute a threat to regional peace and security; and
- Impose comprehensive sanctions on Ethiopia.
Eritrea also calls on countries that have contributed to UNMEE, to friends of UNMEE, to all countries that continue to generously feed Ethiopia's people, while their government, irresponsibly threatens another senseless war, to speak forthrightly and act decisively. We ask them to help spare the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia more suffering, by denying totally dependent Ethiopia the resources to wage another war.
Taking firm action by the international community and individual countries is necessary not only for lasting peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It will also ensure that a dangerous precedent will not be created.
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