afrol News, 10 December - The Foreign Minister of Djibouti, in talks with the US Embassy, called President Issaias Afwerki of neighbouring Eritrea "a lunatic". He also revealed Eritrea opposes any real Somali peace talks.
According to US Embassy wires leaked by Wikileaks, Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf in April 2008 widely distrusted the government of neighbouring Eritrea.
The US Embassy wire was made after talks over an Eritrean military build-up at the Djibouti border and the Eritrean establishment of a military outpost at Doumeira, which Djibouti holds is on its territory. The critical comments were made two months before Eritrea attacked Djiboutian troops, and Foreign Minister Youssouf asked the US government to keep out of the conflict for now as his government wanted to use "quiet diplomacy" to press Eritrea.
Minister Youssouf at the time believed it would be easier to halt renewed confrontation with Eritrea by keeping a low profile. Several meetings with government and military persons close to Eritrean President Afwerki were being held, with an aim of persuading the Eritrean leader to withdraw his troops from Djibouti territory.
But, the Eritrean government was "very unpredictable," Foreign Minister Youssouf told the US embassy. "He underscored that Eritrean troops had previously attacked a Djiboutian outpost at Ras Doumeira in 1994, at the same time that the Eritrean Foreign Minister was visiting the capital of Djibouti. Thus, according to Youssouf, Isaias had blindsided his own Foreign Minister," the US embassy cable said.
"This man is a lunatic," Minister Youssouf was quoted as saying, adding, "you cannot pick your neighbours."
The Djiboutian Foreign Minister further noted the scarcity of food and consumer goods in Eritrea, caused by its "monopolistic, communist" stat
e. As "waves of refugees" already crossed Djibouti's porous borders from Somalia, Djibouti could ill afford additional refugees from Eritrea.
President Afewerki on several had made a point of his irritation about US and European military bases in Djibouti, which are key to the regional fight against terrorism and piracy. The Eritrean dictator had complained that there was "no terrorism in Djibouti."
Also, the Eritrean government had asserted that US military exercises in northern Djibouti in 2008 "were not intended to combat terror, but rather were intended to collect information for Ethiopia," Foreign Minister Youssouf was quoted as saying.
Eritrea sees neighbouring Ethiopia as a major enemy and President Afewerki is increasingly paranoid about other nation's presence in the Horn region. The UN says it has proof that Eritrea has been supplying the extremist group Al Shabab in Somalia to help fight a proxy war in Somalia, leading to UN sanctions against Eritrea.
Djibouti Foreign Minister Youssouf goes far in confirming that Eritrea is fighting a proxy war in Somalia. The government of Eritrea had "opposed Djibouti's ongoing efforts to broker discussions between Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, Minister Youssouf had told the US embassy.
The Djiboutian Minister explained that this Eritrean opposition to Somali peace talks came about as President Afewerki "sought to keep Ethiopia preoccupied in Somalia, and thus to fracture the Ethiopian military into 3-4 fronts." Eritrea thus was interested in keeping the Somali war warm.
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