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The Eritrean government has increased pressure on the U.N. peacekeeping mission monitoring a 25-kilomter wide buffer on the country's Ethiopian border.

Eritrea first imposed restriction on U.N. troops - then, demanded that all Western-nation peacekeepers leave by Friday. Since 2002, Eritrea has been waiting for the demarcation of a one-thousand kilometer border with Ethiopia.

An independent commission drew up the new boundary as part of a complex peace accord following a two-year war that ended five years ago. But Ethiopian officials have called for more discussions before accepting the demarcation agreement, which granted Eritrea sovereignty over several pieces of territory, including the flashpoint town of Badme.

International Crisis Group Horn of Africa Project Director Matt Bryden says legally, Eritrea has every right to demand demarcation because the decision was binding and both sides agreed to abide by it. But the research analyst says there are legitimate reasons for Eritrea to start a dialogue with Addis Ababa.

"Ethiopia also wants to discuss a range of other issues, including access to the Port of Assab, ceasing support for one another's opposition and rebel groups, normalization of economic relations and so on," Mr. Bryden said.

Mr. Bryden says Eritrea would benefit from a longer term view, more flexibility on these issues, and says Asmara should not focus exclusively on demarcating the border.

"Eritrea,” he said, “rightly or wrongly perceives a number of international bodies as guarantors of the peace agreement they signed with Ethiopia - the United Nations, the African Union, European Union, United States, Algeria ... and from Eritrea's standpoint that makes them responsible for ensuring that its followed through. And so I think that is the reason we see them putting pressure on the international community rather than Ethiopia directly."

Meanwhile, the U.N. mission is bowing to Eritrea's demands to withdraw Western peacekeepers. Nearly 180 staff members working for the U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea moved from the Eritrean office to Ethiopia.

The United Nations says the move is in response to Wednesday's resolution by the U.N. Security Council to pull its staff out of Eritrea temporarily, while it reviews its operations in the country.

But the world body is continuing to press both sides to reach a peaceful resolution to the growing crisis.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "We are caught in a stalemate where Eritrea maintains implement the decision and all will be well. And Ethiopia maintains, 'Yes, we accept the decision, but we would want to discuss before we implement. And that our relationship is much more complicated than just the border ... and so we have to find a way to breaking this impasse'."

Several attempts to reach the Eritrean government for comment were unsuccessful.

What is next for the peace process? Author Michela Wrong is an expert on the Horn of Africa region. She says it may be too late.

"I think every diplomat you talk to is very aware that these are very fragile and dangerous times,” she said. “My fear is that all this effort that is being put into diplomacy between the two capitals and trying to put pressure on Ethiopia has effectively come too late. That this should have happened two or three-years ago."

Nonetheless, diplomatic efforts to avert another full-scale war between Ethiopia and Eritrea are ongoing - with an emergency European Union mission preparing to visit the region later this week to support the efforts of top U.N. officials.

The European Parliament is calling on the European Union’s executive to impose tough sanctions on the Ethiopian government. The resolution represents the latest European criticism of the Ethiopian government’s handling of political discontent since the May 15th election.

Since Election Day, EU parliamentarians have accused the Ethiopian government of human rights abuses for its crackdown on post-election demonstrators. EU observers also issued a report critical of the election, saying it failed to meet international standards.

The resolution approved Thursday by the EU’s legislature accuses Ethiopian security forces of using excessive force to stop demonstrators. It calls on the government to immediately release leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and journalists who were jailed after anti-government demonstrations broke out in early November.

The non-binding resolution also urges the EU’s executive bodies (the commission and council) to bypass the government in Addis Ababa when distributing humanitarian aid.

The EU is a major donor to development projects, as well as health and nutrition programs in Ethiopia. It has pledged more than 600-million euros (717-million US dollars) alone to help rebuild the nation’s roads.

There was no immediate reaction from the Ethiopian government to the EU Parliament’s resolution.

Earlier, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dismissed the findings of the EU election report. Mr. Meles said the record number of opposition candidates and the huge voter turnout were proof that it was fair and democratic.

Ethiopian leaders also have defended their crackdown on CUD leaders and journalists, accusing them of inciting violence. Mr. Meles says they may be charged with treason, a crime punishable by death.

But the European Parliament’s resolution says these people should be released immediately. It also calls on the African Union to take a strong stand on supporting democracy in its host country.

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