- The Eritrean government today announced it is recalling its Ambassador to the African Union because of its "failure" to condemn Ethiopia's "gross violations" of the existing peace agreement. Asmara is thus sending a strong signal the peace process is about to fail.
According to a strong worded statement by the Asmara Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Eritrea is very much dismayed by the failure of the African Union to uphold its charter and shoulder its treaty obligations."
The African Union is one of the key authors of the Algiers Peace Agreements that ended the 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean border war. Together with the UN Security Council, the African Union is the guarantor of the peace agreements, which, according to Asmara, "obliges it to take appropriate punitive measures against the transgressing party." The Eritrean government is quoting an article of the peace agreements.
The Ethiopian government has rejected the decisions of the international Boundary Commission set up as consequence of the Algiers peace. According to Asmara, Ethiopia is also "in serious breach of the Algiers Peace Agreements." Further, the Ministry says, Ethiopia had "violated the AU's fundamental principle of the sanctity of colonial boundaries."
- But despite these gross violations by Ethiopia, the African Union remains deafeningly silent, the Eritrean government statement says. "Eritrea finds this abdication of responsibility by the AU, whose headquarters is in the Ethiopia capital, Addis Ababa, in comprehensible and unacceptable."
In the event, Eritrea had "no option but to recall, with deep regret, its Ambassador to the African Union." The Ministry does not elaborate on when its Ambassador, Salih Omar, is to leave Addis Ababa or if there exists an opening for negotiations. The Ambassador is reported to still be in the Ethiopian capital.
Since the international Border Commission started its work, the already fragile Eritrean-Ethiopian relationship got even worse. Ethiopia has challenged the Commission's conclusion, which originally had been observed to give concessions to both parties, although placing Badme, the village where the dispute had begun, on the Eritrean side of the border. The internationally funded demarcation process has been widely obstructed.
The rhetoric in Asmara has returned to war level over the past few months, while Addis Ababa stubbornly has rejected to fulfil its obligations to accept the Border Commission's ruling. So far, none of the guarantors of the Algiers peace - the AU, the US, the European Union and the UN - have put serious pressure on Ethiopia, at least not in public.
As the Eritrean government is afraid of losing the peace and Ethiopia gains in self-confidence, observers are concerned about the possible outbreak of new armed action at the fragile border. The strong worded Asmara statement demonstrates the level of frustration reached in Eritrea and that there now remain few options but a return to arms.
First reactions by AU staff were summed up in surprise and deception over the Eritrean decision. AU spokespersons told the press in Addis Ababa that the Union indeed was urging Ethiopia to respect the Border Commission's decision but had no ways of forcing Ethiopia to do so. Also UN spokesmen said they were trying to pressure Ethiopia.
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