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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 12:43 GMT
Diplomatic muddle over Horn stalemate
By Martin Plaut
BBC, London

The international community appears to be gearing up to try to end the stalemate over the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute.

UN envoy to the Horn, Lloyd Axworthy
Eritrea has rejected new UN envoy Lloyd Axworthy
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council expressed its "disappointment" about Ethiopia's failure to accept aspects of the Boundary Commission's decision on where the border should lie.

Ethiopia is particularly unhappy about the decision to hand the town of Badme to Eritrea, since this was the spark that ignited the two-and-a-half year war between the two countries in May 1998.

Ethiopia has not yet responded to the criticism, but Eritrea has welcomed the statement.

Pressure

At the same time Eritrea's acting Minister of Information Ali Abdu Ahmed said the UN could have gone further and called for sanctions against Ethiopia for failing to implement the Boundary Commission's decision.

This is unlikely to come about soon, but pressure is mounting on both sides to come to some kind of agreement.

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Don Yamamoto, is in Eritrea, having already visited Ethiopia.

On Sunday the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, will be in Addis Ababa and is due to hold talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on the border issue.

Next week, British Foreign Office Minister Chris Mullin will be visiting Eritrea and Ethiopia.

And later this month the newly appointed UN special envoy, Lloyd Axworthy, is expected to go to the region.

Disorganised

Does this amount to an organised push by the international community to resolve this difficult issue?

So far the evidence is not encouraging.

There seems to be a distinct lack of co-ordination among the parties, who all appear to be treading their own paths.

Diplomatic sources suggest that they all continue to support the Boundary Commission's decision.

But there is little attempt to bring the individual efforts together in a concerted drive to arrive at a final settlement.

And as one UN insider remarked, unless the international community exerts concerted pressure on both sides to compromise, there is little chance that this issue will be resolved.




SEE ALSO:
Eritrea rejects new peace envoy
02 Jan 04  |  Africa
Eritrea denies 'trouble-making'
31 Dec 03  |  Africa
Horn border marking postponed
30 Oct 03  |  Africa


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