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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Eritrea accepts border ruling
Soldiers
About 80,000 lives were lost in the border war
Eritrea has said it accepts an international ruling on its long-standing border dispute with Ethiopia which caused a two-year war and tens of thousands of deaths.

A statement by the governing party said it would, as agreed, abide by the verdict, which it described as a victory for both peoples.


It is a victory for the people of Ethiopia, but it is the Eritrean people who have emerged most victorious

Eritrean statement
The statement made no comment on the land Eritrea has to give up, nor on the areas it has been awarded.

In contrast to Eritrea's subdued reaction, Ethiopia was jubilant on Saturday when the new 1,000km (620 mile) boundary was decided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

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 was decided by a five-member panel of judges, treaty experts and international jurists.

"In the final analysis, the end of the war on the basis of a legal determination is a victory for both the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples," read a statement on the website of Eritrea's ruling Popular Front for Democracy and Justice.

Immediately after the ruling, Ethiopia declared it had won the land it claimed and Eritrea had lost the case, just as it had lost the war.

Eritrean state television denounced the Ethiopian comments as a lie.

A number of key towns and villages have been awarded to Ethiopia.

Click here to see a map of the region

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

Eritrea appears to have made some gains in the west.

But the BBC's Martin Plaut says the details of the complex award are hard to decipher, and it will be some time before it is clear who the winners and losers in the judgement have been.

Diplomats say both governments are putting forward their diametrically opposed views of the ruling to convince their citizens that the sacrifices and loss of life have not been in vain.

On Sunday, Ethiopian state radio interrupted regular programmes to broadcast patriotic music and victory songs, and several thousand people demonstrated in Addis Ababa.

In Eritrea, some residents expressed relief at the ruling which they hope will allow them to get on with their lives.

Peace deal

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

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.



Ethiopia and Eritrea border region


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 ON THIS STORY
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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