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AU panel meeting 12-14 Dec in Addis Ababa urged launch of new approach to settle Ethiopia-Eritrea dispute, recognising Algiers Peace Agreement signed 2000 remains stalled.
Eritrean govt 3 Jan claimed Ethiopian troops launched successive assaults along disputed shared border, claimed to have repelled attacks and killed 10 Ethiopian troops; Addis Ababa denied. Following 28 Jan announcement by AU’s PSC (see Eritrea), Asmara accused Ethiopia of obstructing participation in AU, called on AU not to discuss Eritrea at its 31 Jan summit.
Following 7 Apr debate UNSC stated Asmara had failed to withdraw troops from contested area in Djibouti in line with Jan deadline. Human Rights Watch report highlighted scale of ongoing abuses by govt, including forced labour, arbitrary detention, torture.
Eritrean President Afwerki 21 Feb rejected 13 Feb Libyan, AU offer to mediate with Ethiopia over border dispute – offer welcomed by Ethiopian PM Meles. Asmara 28 Feb reported 2 killed in restaurant bombing in Haikota, western Eritrea; as yet unconfirmed.
Ethiopia 25 Sept again accused Eritrea of attempting to destabilise it through new anti-Ethiopian media broadcasts in local languages.
Despite 31 July termination of UN peacekeeping mission on border, status quo prevailed, with Ethiopia stressing intention to pursue dialogue with Eritrea to resolve border dispute.
UNSC terminated UNMEE peacekeeping mission 31 July, after Eritrea forced troop withdrawal Feb. Both countries played down fears of war as disputed border without international presence for first time in 8 years.
UNSC 23 June considered disbanding UNMEE peacekeeping mission – mandate up 31 July – after Eritrea forced temporary withdrawal in Feb.
UNSC 30 Apr criticised Eritrea for causing temporary UNMEE withdrawal after govt cut fuel supplies; Asmara 1 May called for permanent UNMEE disbandment, 13 May said Apr UNSG warning withdrawal could prompt war “gimmick” to cover UN failings. In separate development, Djibouti 5 May accused Eritrea of border violations and military build-up, requesting UN action. Up to 29 reportedly killed in flash floods in eastern city of Jijiga 30-31 May.
UNSG Ban Ki-moon warned UNMEE withdrawal could prompt Ethiopia-Eritrea war. UNSC considering options for future UN/UNMEE presence; condemned Eritrea’s continued “obstructions”. Addis Ababa severed ties with Qatar 21 Apr; cited strong links to Eritrea, support for regional armed opposition groups including in Somalia.
Over 700 UNMEE peacekeepers temporarily relocated from Eritrea to home countries. UNSG Ban Ki-moon said Eritrea placed UNMEE in untenable situation. Ethiopian-Eritrean forces 17 March reportedly clashed Tigray, Ethiopia; 5 Eritrean, 2 Ethiopian deaths unconfirmed. 13 March bus bomb in north Ethiopia killed 8; government blamed Eritrea – Asmara dismissed accusations.
Border dispute intensified as stand-off over UN border peacekeepers escalated: Eritrea cut food and fuel supplies, prevented withdrawal to Ethiopia which offered 11 Feb to host 1,700-strong force in administrative capacity. UNMEE soldiers began regrouping in Asmara 19 Feb after prevented from crossing border. UNSC expressed “deep concern”, urged full Eritrean cooperation. Asmara reported 2 killed 7 Feb by newly planted landmine near border.
Eritrea reiterated acceptance of 2002 “virtual demarcation” of border by Hague boundary commission 15 Jan, called for removal of Ethiopian troops from land awarded to Asmara. Ethiopia rejected demarcation saying no validity in international law. UNSC renewed UNMEE mandate for 6 months 30 Jan, despite UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation for 1-month extension due to fuel block by Eritrea.
Border area relatively stable despite 1 December Boundary Commission deadline expiry following increased international attention. Concerns raised by exchange of gunﬁre 25 December.
Sides failed to reach agreement by 30 November Boundary Commission deadline. Slight easing of tension as Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi said 30 November “very confident” deadline would pass without incident unless “full-scale invasion” by Eritrea; said 27 November defence budget increased by more than $54 million in case of resumption of hostilities. UNSG Ban Ki-moon 7 November report cited troop build-up by both sides.
Risk of escalated conflict across border as end-November Boundary Commission deadline means border will be “automatically demarcated” if parties’ positions unchanged. Eritrea accused Ethiopia 20 October of plot to invade: claim rejected. Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis called 8 October for military build-up to counter possible Eritrean aggression.
Risk increased of border dispute returning to full-fledged conflict. Ethiopian FM Seyoum Mesfin sent 25 September letter to Eritrea accusing it of breaching 2000 Algiers Agreement that ended 2-year war. Eritrea rejected claim as “irrelevant”. Talks in The Hague broke down 8 September: Addis Ababa continued to argue for revision of 2002 UN ruling granting town of Badme to Eritrea; Asmara insists ruling is binding and promised to fulfil all requirements of UN boundary commission – including lifting restriction on UN peacekeepers and withdrawing its troops from buffer zone – if Ethiopia honours 2002 agreement. According to commission, 2002 border will be final if no breakthrough by November. U.S. Assistant Sec. State Jendayi Frazer warned 8 September U.S. to consider naming Eritrea state sponsor of terrorism, citing support for Somali Islamists.
After threats not to attend Boundary Commission meeting on border demarcation if held in New York, Addis confirmed 27 August it would: meeting scheduled 6 September in The Hague.
UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s 18 July report noted significant Eritrean troop buildup inside, and Ethiopian troop build-up adjacent to, Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). Both sides also placed further restrictions on UNMEE. Boundary commission planned meeting for early September after receiving positive signals from both sides, but Ethiopia suggested would attend only if minimum conditions - Eritrean withdrawal from TSZ - met by time of meeting.
Ethiopian PM Zenawi announced 28 June strengthening army in preparation for attack by Eritrea. Military build-up reported on both sides. Ethiopian FM Seyoum Mesfin wrote to UNSG Ban Ki-moon 7 June reiterating Ethiopia’s acceptance of April 2002 Boundary Commission demarcation decision – but called for number of preconditions and blamed Eritrea for lack of progress. Asmara continued to reject dialogue and dismissed letter saying it puts too many conditions on demarcation.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki called border security zone, which his troops occupy, “meaningless”, and blamed U.S. for 5-year border stalemate in 24 May independence-day speech.
Tensions persist as accusations traded. Ethiopia said killed 23 Eritrean-backed rebels, captured 18, received surrender of 112. Kenya announced effort to begin intense diplomacy between rivals. Eritrea suspended membership in regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 21 April over Somalia policy rifts.
Asmara expelled head of UNMEE mine clearance team 20 March for “violations of Eritrean laws and regulations”. Increasing tension between Eritrea and international community, and Ethiopia’s fostering of relationship with U.S. in particular, further polarizing the 2 countries.
Ethiopian PM Zenawi called for border demarcation issue to be resolved through dialogue. Zenawi criticised UN Security Council for not taking measures when Eritrean troops crossed Temporary Security Zone in 2006.
UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1741 extending UN peacekeeping force UNMEE’s mandate until 31 July 2007. Resolution stipulated “reconfiguration”, from 2,300 to 1,700 personnel; called on Ethiopia to accept Boundary Commission decision to demarcate border and Eritrea to remove troops from Temporary Security Zone.
In response to November rejection of boundary commission proposals and Eritrean “humiliating impediments” UNSG Annan outlined 4 proposals for UNMEE reduction to UNSC 15 December; Annan supports option of reducing peacekeepers to 1,700 personnel (from 2,300) but maintaining current posts while sides use boundary commission-endorsed 12 months to reach agreement on emplacement of boundary pillars. Conflict in Somalia exacerbated by Ethiopian troops acting in support of Transitional Federal Government and Eritrean supply of arms and training for Islamists (see Somalia).
Both sides continued to back opposing sides in Somalia, raising fear of full-scale proxy war. Meanwhile, both rejected mid-November proposal by independent boundary commission to demarcate border on maps but leave physical demarcation to two countries to complete within a year.
Tensions rose as Eritrea amassed reported 1,500 troops and 14 tanks in UN-monitored Temporary Security Zone, in what UN called “major breach” of 2000 peace agreement. Eritrea rejected UN Security Council call to withdraw, claiming right of troops to assist with food production and security. Risk of full-scale regional conflict involving Ethiopia and Eritrea increased: UN report cited estimates of 6,000-8,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia supporting Transitional Federal Government, and 2,000 Eritrean soldiers supporting rival Union of Islamic Courts.
Tensions over disputed town of Badme continued as Eritrea expelled 5 UN security staff accused of espionage. UNMEE mandate extended by Security Council until 31 January 2007. 2 more senior Ethiopian army officers reportedly defected to join Oromo Liberation Front secessionist rebels, after similar August defections of officers and soldiers. Hundreds of Ethiopian troops sighted in Somali town of Baidoa in late September (see Somalia, below).
Former Ethiopian commander defected with several senior officers and 150 soldiers to join secessionist, Eritrea-backed OLF rebels; clashes killed 2.
Negotiations on border dispute remained at standstill, but Ethiopian and Eritrean involvement heightened fears of proxy war in Somalia.
Blow to border dispute resolution as Eritrea refused to attend Boundary Commission meeting in The Hague 15 June, citing Ethiopia’s failure to implement 2002 agreement. 111 Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front rebels, allegedly from Eritrea, reported killed by Ethiopian forces; Asmara denied reports. UN report found Eritrea providing military support for Somali-based insurgents attacking Ethiopia and for groups linked to Somali Islamic Courts militia.
UN extended UNMEE peacekeeping mandate for 4 months 31 May but nearly halved number of authorised troops, after Boundary Commission talks 18-19 May in London failed to break deadlock. Ethiopia dropped longstanding precondition of further negotiation before border demarcation can start, demanding instead Eritrea withdraw militias from Temporary Security Zone.
UN Security Council extended UNMEE mandate for 1 month and agreed to decide mid-May whether to scale back mission if sides fail to comply with UNSC demands. International Boundary Commission London meeting with Ethiopia and Eritrea set 28-29 April postponed for month due to ill health of commission head.
Little progress in resolving border dispute despite talks between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Boundary Commission in London. Ethiopia pushed its November 2004 peace proposal that states parts of Commission’s 2002 ruling require further discussion, while Eritrea rejected calls for new talks. UN Security Council extended UN mission mandate to 15 April to give parties more time to resolve differences. Eritrea expelled 3 international aid agencies, saying had not met operational permit requirements.
Situation remained tense along disputed border with troop movement reported on both sides. UN Security Council agreed 8 February to give U.S. 30 days to resolve border dispute before considering troop redeployment. Witnesses of 2000 Algiers Agreement (Algeria, AU, EU, UN, U.S.) met 22 February in attempt to expedite border demarcation process but Asmara refused to work with independent boundary commission to resolve dispute. Eritrea arrested 27 local UN mission staff; 25 later released but no official reason given for arrests.
Tensions along disputed border eased as Ethiopia reduced force levels, but Eritrean restrictions on movement of UN peacekeepers remained in place. High- level U.S. mediation team arrived Ethiopia 19 January in effort to move border dispute forward; visit to Eritrea cancelled after access to border area refused. Eritrea accused U.S. of bias towards Ethiopia; agreed early January to accept December Claims Commission ruling that blamed it for starting 1998-2000 war.
Situation along border remained volatile. Tensions exacerbated after Eritrea ordered UN mission (UNMEE) troops from Canada, Europe and U.S. to leave 7 December. UN Security Council announced temporary evacuation of 180 UNMEE staff after Eritrean President Afewerki refused to meet UNSG envoy seeking to negotiate settlement. UN confirmed Ethiopia had moved some troops back from border 23 December, but neither side fully complied with November UN resolution calling for de-escalation. International Claims Commission ruled Eritrea started 1998 war and liable for damages caused to Ethiopia.
Border tensions continued to rise with high concentrations of troops deployed on both sides. Ethiopian soldiers breached demilitarised zone, withdrawing 23 November. UN Security Council passed resolution threatening sanctions if sides failed to reduce troop numbers and if Eritrea refused to lift restrictions on UNMEE monitors, including ban on helicopter flights; also called on Ethiopia to respect boundary commission ruling on border demarcation, but did not threaten punishment. Eritrea dismissed resolution as biased.
Serious risk of return to conflict led to calls for urgent international action. Eritrea banned UN monitoring mission (UNMEE) from conducting helicopter flights, night patrols and restricted movement to main roads, in move to pressure Ethiopia to accept 2002 Boundary Commission ruling. UNMEE announced withdrawal of peacekeepers from 18 of 40 monitoring posts, as ban limited ability to police border. In Ethiopia, parliament voted to lift immunity of opposition MPs who boycotted first session since disputed May polls; police later arrested over 50 opposition supporters and MPs in separate incidents.
Eritrea warned would re-start war with Ethiopia if UN fails to resolve border dispute. UN Security Council extended mandate of UN mission until March 2006, expressing concern over high troop concentrations near border. Ethiopia’s election board confirmed PM Meles Zenawi’s coalition won clear victory in disputed May election; government rejected opposition proposal to form unity government. Zenawi instead announced willing to open talks with main Ethiopian guerrilla movement, Oromo Liberation Front. Police arrested over 40 opposition members prior to planned protests early October.
UN Special Humanitarian Envoy Martti Ahtisaari began trip to region 23 August; called for more flexible delivery of aid. Eritrean Foreign Minister Ali Said died of heart attack 28 August.
UN Security Council mooted possible trip to region to kick-start implementation of 2003 border demarcation ruling. UNMEE warned incidents in Temporary Security Zone risk return to hostilities. In Ethiopia, bombs exploded in 3 Jigjiga bars killing 5, injuring 31. Ethiopian government and Ogaden National Liberation Front gave mixed signals about prospect for peace talks.
At least 22 killed by police in Addis Ababa riots following May elections; both PM Zenawi and opposition EPRDF claimed victory with final results to be announced 8 July. National Elections Board and international observers began to investigate fraud allegations in 135 contested constituencies. Eritrea urged greater international pressure to resolve dispute over Badme town.
As Eritrea faced growing food insecurity and Ethiopia held flawed elections, political rhetoric over border dispute continued. Eritrea’s President Afwerki said Ethiopian government “views war as only resort” and blamed U.S. for Ethiopia’s non-compliance with 2003 boundary ruling. Opposition gains in Ethiopian elections may reduce Addis Ababa’s room for manoeuvre and harden government line.
Peace process stalled since closure of Boundary Commission field offices March 2005, citing “obstructive actions” by Ethiopia. Ongoing war of words: Ethiopia said Eritrea trained and airlifted 32 insurgents killed by security forces in Ethiopia’s unstable Ogaden region. Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki told ruling party officials Ethiopian expansionism made renewed conflict inevitable and stepped up military preparedness.
UN Security Council renewed UNMEE force mandate for 6 months amid tension over alleged military build-up; UNMEE political chief warned of continuing war risk. UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan urged Security Council visit to region to push peace efforts; Eritrea said UNSC needed to pressure Ethiopia to fully implement 2002 border ruling.