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Annan Welcomes International Commission Ruling on Ethiopia-Eritrea Border - 2002-04-14

An international commission in the Netherlands has issued a ruling Saturday intended to end a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The former foes learned where their common border will be from an international border commission.

The boundary decision handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration here is meant to end a bitter border dispute between the two countries that has left some 80,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced.

The fighting which began in 1998, ended two years later with a humiliating defeat for Eritrea, the much smaller country, which won its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

But there was still no formal border and much of the most disputed territory is rich farmland. The commission to mark a common boundary was established as part of a peace deal signed by the two countries. They also agreed to prisoner exchanges, the return of displaced people, and to hear compensation claims for war damages.

Ethiopian officials are claiming victory. The country's foreign minister called the ruling a victory of peace over aggression, saying his country was awarded many of the most disputed areas.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the decision. Mr. Annan has called on both sides to implement it as soon as possible. Defining the border is expected to help in removing land mines and the relocation of displaced people.

There are concerns enacting the border decision may not go smoothly. But Mr. Annan recently said basing peace on a legal settlement will set an example, not only for the rest of Africa but for the whole world.

The U.N. has more than 4,000 peacekeepers deployed to monitor part of the 1,000 kilometer border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Both sides have pledged to honor the commission's legally binding decision.