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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
New Ethiopia-Eritrea border revealed
Soldiers
About 80,000 lives were lost in the border war
A judgement has been handed to Ethiopia and Eritrea which it is hoped will finally settle their long-standing border dispute in which tens of thousands were killed during a two-year war.

Ethiopia was jubilant about the new 1,000km (620 mile) boundary, decided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.


Ethiopia accepts the ruling - Ethiopia is satisfied

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin

Ethiopian foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin said the country had won the land it had claimed, and declared that Eritrea had lost the case, just as it had lost the war.

But Eritrean state television denounced the Ethiopian comments.

"Whatever the Ethiopian Government has announced is a lie," a presenter said in comments broadcast during the half-time break of a football match.

The United Nations has now made the full border judgement public.

Both countries have promised to respect the decision as part of an agreement to end the conflict, in which about 80,000 people were killed.

Eritrean refugees
Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes during the war
The boundary, decided by a five-member panel of judges, treaty experts and international jurists, was revealed to the two countries on Saturday.

The BBC's Martin Plaut says Ethiopia seems to have achieved many of its goals.

A number of key towns and villages have been awarded to Addis Ababa, including the western border town of Badme, over which the war was started.

Click here to see a map of the region

Zalembessa - also the scene of heavy fighting - has gone to Ethiopia too, as have the towns of Alitena - in the central sector of the border - and Bada in the east.

But our correspondent says Eritrea appears to have made some gains in the west.

Peace deal

Fighting broke out in May 1998 when Eritrea - which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 - invaded territory Ethiopia considered to be within its national borders.

We paid so much sacrifice to chase the Eritreans from these places, how can anyone hand them over to Eritrea?

Ethiopian petrol station attendant Betru Kassa
After months of heavy fighting, Ethiopian troops captured much of the smaller country's prime agricultural land.

Eritrea, which has a population of 3.5 million compared to Ethiopia's 65 million, agreed to end hostilities in June 2000.

A peace deal was signed six months later and set the terms for the border commission.

But relations have remained strained and the United Nations has 4,200 peacekeepers patrolling a buffer zone around the disputed areas.

The UN envoy to the region, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, was optimistic about the outcome of the ruling by the panel of three Americans, a Nigerian and a Briton.

"It is no longer about accepting this decision because they have agreed that it will be binding and final," he said.

"Hopefully it will open a new chapter of peaceful relations."

Colonial maps

Lawyers for each side presented the panel with maps and treaties dating back to the colonial era at the turn of the last century to support their claims to the fertile farmland.

Correspondents say the decision is bound to be controversial and both sides initially believed it would be in their favour.

So many people were killed in the fighting, that passions run high.

An Ethiopian petrol station attendant, Betru Kassa, told the Associated Press news agency: "We paid so much sacrifice to chase the Eritreans from these places, how can anyone hand them over to Eritrea?"



Ethiopia and Eritrea border region


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The BBC's Freya Michie
"Relations between the two remain intense and both face strong domestic pressure not to concede any land"
See also:

13 Apr 02 | Africa
Eritrea-Ethiopia border defined
07 Mar 02 | Africa
Horn border ruling delayed again
24 Feb 02 | Africa
UN envoys upbeat after Horn tour
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Ethiopians await border results
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