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Eritrea Rejects UN Mediation Over Border Dispute - 2004-04-06


Eritrea has rejected an appeal by the European Union to allow U.N. mediation in a dispute over the location of its border with Ethiopia.

Eritrean presidential spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel told VOA his government's talks with a top-level EU delegation Monday were constructive, but did not change Eritrea's decision to reject U.N. mediation of its border dispute with Ethiopia.

The EU delegates went to Eritrea in the hope of convincing Eritrea to talk to Canadian envoy Lloyd Axworthy, who was appointed by the United Nations early this year to help the two countries resolve their border dispute.

The two countries are deadlocked over which of the two countries should control a small border area called Badme.

The independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruled two years ago that Badme belongs to Eritrea, but Ethiopia rejected that ruling.

Eritrea, in turn, refused to submit the dispute to mediation.

"The decision cannot be a subject of review by a special envoy, because it's a legal decision, its final and binding by treaty," Mr. Gebremeskel said.

He says Eritrea is willing talk to Mr. Axworthy, but not about the commission's ruling.

The EU delegation left for Ethiopia for talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi about the border deadlock.

A spokesman in Ethiopia's Ministry of Information, Zemedkun Tekle, said he hopes, in his words, the talks will go smoothly in favor of Ethiopia's need to bring lasting peace in the Horn of Africa.

Mr. Tekle says his country still rejects the inclusion of Badme within Eritrea territory, blaming the boundary commission for mistakes.

"The Ethiopian government has said that the border commission has failed to work properly. It has committed mistakes," he said. "It has refused to correct the mistake it has done."

He says the mistake was including Badme in Eritrea.

The exact location of the border was the cause of a brutal war from 1998 to 2000 in which an estimated 70,000 people died. As part of a peace deal signed in 2000, the boundary commission was to set markers along the agreed border.

But a series of disagreements have led the commission to suspend the demarcation exercise indefinitely.

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