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The BBC's Terry Stiastny
"The aim is to create a buffer zone between the two countries"
 real 28k

Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Horn enemies sign peace deal
The Ethiopian and Eritrean foreign ministers
Algeria's president embraces the two former foes
The foreign ministers of Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a peace plan in Algiers aimed at ending their two-year border war, which has cost the lives of 100,000 people and created a huge refugee problem.

Algerian television showed Seyoum Mesfin of Ethiopia and Haile Woldensae of Eritrea signing the ceasefire accord.

[It is] the first concrete step toward peace between the two countries after a useless war

Eritrean foreign minister
The agreement, which was negotiated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), calls for the end of hostilities, and an observer mission and a UN force to be deployed in the border area.

The ceasefire appears to favour Ethiopia, which maintains its army in the disputed areas, while Eritrean forces must withdraw from a 25km (15 miles) buffer zone inside their own territory to make way for peacekeepers.

There have been no reports of clashes since the guns on the front line fell silent, as agreed, on Friday.

'First step'

Eritrean Foreign Minister Haile Woldansae said the accord marked "the beginning of the end of two years of conflict".

His Ethiopian counterpart promised full commitment to the ceasefire, and called on the Eritreans to respect the accord.

Ceasefire agreement facts
Calls for end to hostilities
25 km buffer zone inside Eritrean territory
2,000 UN peacekeepers to be deployed
Ethiopian troops to return to pre-war positions within two weeks of UN deployment
Present at the ceremony were the Algeria's President Bouteflika, OAU chief Salim Ahmed Salim and US envoy Anthony Lake.

Mr Lake said that the signing would allow "the deployment of peacekeeping troops in a temporary zone of security".

"The deployment is a very important first step," he said.

"The second might lead to a definitive resolution of the conflict, the demarcation of the borders and a permanent ceasefire between Ethiopia and Eritrea", he added.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has promised UN support for the ceasefire accord, and despatched a three-member team to discuss a peacekeeping force with African leaders.

UN role

Under the plan, Ethiopia's army will withdraw to pre-war positions only after the deployment of a UN force in the buffer zone inside Eritrea.

In a statement, Mr Annan noted that the agreement "calls for an important role for the United Nations that would involve the deployment of a peacekeeping mission".

Any deployment of peacekeepers would have to be agreed by the UN Security Council.

The UN plans to send reconnaissance teams to both countries before recommending to the council what kind of force would be needed.

Ethiopian relief

BBC Asmara correspondent Alex Last says the ceasefire will be a relief to Eritreans despite the fact that it seems to favour Ethiopia.

Eritrean refugees from the war
The war has created hundreds of thousands of refugees
The cost of the war in lives has been clear to Eritreans even though exact casualty figures are unknown.

The population of Eritrea is only 3.5 million, compared to Ethiopia's 60 million. In order to compete militarily, around 10% of Eritrea's population, both men and women, were mobilised and given military training.

It became clear to Eritreans that in fighting reminiscent of First World War trench warfare the only way to hold territory was to sacrifice many lives.

Our correspondent says Eritrea, unlike its massive opponent, simply could not afford heavy human losses, so withdrawal from territory becomes a military necessity and politically acceptable.

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See also:

12 Jun 00 | Africa
Ethiopia-Eritrea peace plan
12 May 00 | Battle in the Horn
Border a geographer's nightmare
13 Jun 00 | Africa
Eyewitness: Horn battle horror
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