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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
EU presses for Horn peace deal
Eritrean soldiers
Ertirea and Ethiopia have been at war for two years
The European Union has urged Ethiopia and Eritrea to resume peace talks immediately and unconditionally.

Battle in the horn
The EU call follows the failure of a peace mission by the United Nations Security Council, which tried to persuade the warring countries to implement a peace plan devised by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

"The EU appeals to the governments of both countries to begin, immediately and without prior conditions, peace talks based on the OAU Presidency statement of 5 May 2000," an EU statement said.

United Nations special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who led the seven-member Security Council delegation through two rounds of talks with the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, warned that the two countries are now on the verge of a fresh outbreak of fighting.

But he concluded that a diplomatic solution to the two-year conflict was as far away as ever.

"We are very close to a resumption of hostilities and the outbreak of a new round of fighting, which, if it does take place, immediately constitutes the largest war on the African continent," Mr Holbrooke said as he left the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Wednesday.

Both Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed to the OAU peace plan, but differ on the terms of its implementation.

The conflict, which began in 1998 over a border dispute, has cost tens of thousands of lives.

For almost a year, fighting has been confined to a few isolated episodes, but both sides have continued to build up forces along their borders.

The ongoing famine in southern Ethiopia has prompted renewed calls for an end to the war, which has been blamed for hindering the supply of food aid, and draining the countries' coffers of money which could be used for development.

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09 May 00 | Africa
UN team heads for Eritrea
13 Apr 00 | Africa
War blocks Ethiopia's lifeline
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