In a press release1 this morning from its Permanent Representative in Geneva, the Government of Ethiopia has repeated inaccurate statements about its positions on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission’s ruling.
Between 1998 and 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war over their 1,000+ km border. An estimated 100,000+ soldiers were killed and another 80,000+ Ethiopian civilians of Eritrean descent were expelled from Ethiopia because of “the color of their eyes.” The armistice and later treaty signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia created a neutral arbitration commission located at the Hague to determine (delimit) and mark (demarcate) the border between the two countries. This Commission released its Delimitation Decision on April 13, 20022 (with clarifications in 2003). In November 2007 the Commission declared the boundary fully demarcated and having concluded its mandate, dissolved itself.3
The press release by the Government of Ethiopia asserts half truths. I have identified some of these issues and provided some resources that reveal some more of the truth:
- Ethiopia fully accepts the delimitation decision of the Boundary Commission and has made all possible attempts to implement the decision in accordance with internationally accepted practice.
- The question here is no longer one of the delimitation decision, but rather the demarcation decision. The Commission in its November 30, 2006 press release4 stated: ” the locations now established by the Commission will take legal effect and will constitute the final demarcation of the boundary … the Commission hereby determines that the boundary will … stand as demarcated,”5 guided by State practice followed in 1993.6 The Permanent Representative’s argument that Ethiopia has attempted to implement the decision in accordance with international practice is contrary to the facts as described by the Commission. To the contrary, Ethiopia’s troops remain present on Eritrean territory, and Ethiopia continues to reject the Commission’s demarcation, contrary to its prior acceptance.7
- Similarly, Eritrea has continuously called for Ethiopia to respect its treaty obligations and immediately withdraw from Eritrean territory.
- Two years ago, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn even made an unprecedented peace overture to Eritrea, offering even to go to Asmara to initiate a bilateral dialogue.
- Over two years ago, Eritrea’s Permanent Representative to the African Union, headquartered in Ethiopia, relayed the following message to the African Union from the Government of Eritrea: “if Ethiopia withdraws its army from occupied sovereign Eritrean territory … in the morning, dialogue between the two countries will start in the afternoon.”8
- The problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia is not a border problem; it is rather that Eritrea’s leadership refuses to enter into dialogue.
- As mentioned above, it is very clear that Eritrea is dedicated to normalization of relations with Ethiopia, once Ethiopia’s government respects its treaty obligations.
I hope the corrections above will help anyone reading the Government of Ethiopia’s “release” find the appropriate context.