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Officials Say US Mission Not Barred From Entering Eritrea


A U.S. mission to help resolve the long-standing border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia might not visit Eritrea. An Eritrean official says the group was not barred from his country, despite reports to the contrary.

Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer and her delegation were scheduled to visit Eritrea this month. But it is not clear if the mission actually intends to go to Eritrea.

According to media reports, Ms. Frazer has been granted a visa to enter the Horn of Africa country.

But a U.S. source says she was on her way to Ethiopia. After her visit, she is expected to attend the African Union summit in Sudan.

One news report says that Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki refused to allow the group to enter Eritrea, especially areas along the contested border. But a counselor with the Eritrean embassy in Nairobi, Teumezghi Tesfa, says that no one has barred the assistant secretary and her group from entering his country.

He notes that Assistant Secretary of State Frazer and other senior U.S. and Eritrean officials recently held talks in Washington about the border issue, and that a visit to Eritrea at this point would be redundant.

"I think in principle what the government is saying is that the discussion has already been done in Washington," Mr. Teumezghi said. "That is the main reason anyway why she is not coming to Eritrea, it is not because of not allowing her to come or what."

When contacted by VOA, spokespeople for the U.S. embassies in Eritrea and Ethiopia would not comment on the situation.

Ethiopia and Eritrea waged a bitter war over their border from 1998 to 2000, during which 70,000 people were killed.

Under a peace agreement signed in 2000, the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was created to mark the 1000-kilometer border. At the time, about 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers were dispatched to ensure the stability of the border.

Ethiopia subsequently rejected the boundary commission's ruling that an area called Badme belongs to Eritrea, effectively stopping a demarcation exercise and keeping the exact location of the border in limbo.

In recent months, relations between the two Horn of Africa countries have become increasingly tense, with troop movements spotted on both sides of the border and threats of war being uttered.

Counselor Teumezghi says that Eritrea's position on the matter is very clear.

"The demarcation should be done: that is all the position of the Eritrean government. We abide by the agreement, and we abide by the outcome of the border commission's decision," he said.

Eritrea has resisted mediation efforts, insisting that Ethiopia should be forced to abide by the boundary commission's ruling.

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