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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Slight progress over Horn border
Ethiopian troops along Eritrean border
The two countries fought a trench war of attrition
Talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea held over their disputed border appear to have achieved a small breakthrough.

At Wednesday's talks in London, Ethiopia has dropped its precondition that further talks be held before demarcation can go ahead.

At the same time Eritrea has been told that it must withdraw its troops from the demilitarised zone that runs along the 1,000km border.

Some 80,000 people died in the war between 1998 and 2000 over the issue.

After a peace deal, an international tribunal ruled on where the border should run, but Ethiopia has refused to let the new frontier be marked out.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council insisted that the 3,000 UN peacekeepers along the border would only have a mandate until the end of May, and warned that troop levels would be reduced unless some progress was made at the talks.

Dec 2000: Peace agreement
Apr 2002: Border ruling
Mar 2003: Ethiopian complaint over Badme rejected
Sep 2003: Ethiopia asks for new ruling
Feb 2005: UN concern at military build-up
Oct 2005: Eritrea restricts peacekeepers' activities
Nov 2005: UN sanctions threat if no compliance with 2000 deal

This seems to have concentrated minds, the BBC's Martin Plaut reports, and Ethiopia has now said it is willing to allow demarcation to begin, as soon as the demilitarised zone that runs along the border has been re-established.

This puts pressure on Eritrea, which is reported to have moved considerable troop concentrations into the zone - something that Asmara has consistently denied.

Demarcation teams are now being recruited, and their offices in both countries will be re-opened, our reporter says.

At the same time Eritrea was told that talks to iron out some of the anomalies produced by the tribunal's ruling will have to take place, although exactly what this will require has been left rather vague.

Further talks are planned to build on what has been achieved.


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