Ethiopia In Strong Legal Position

See Article Below - Reuters- June 3, 1998

The peace plan put forward by the US-Rwanda commision (see below)is sensible and should be implemented.

The reason it is not being implemented is Eritrea's insistence that the pre-existing Ethiopian civil administration should not return to Badime. President Issaias specifically mentioned this point in his previous interviews.

As far as binding delimitation of the border goes, this is exactly what Ethiopia has been proposing all along, beginning with the Italian fascists in 1934 and 1935. The delimitation will not be based on Italian created maps, but on treaties between Ethiopia and Italy describing in words and in common maps where the border was to be located (around 1900s).

Unilateral Italian maps from the 1930s are unacceptable to Ethiopia because it was during this period that Italy was encroaching on Ethiopian territory and constantly drawing maps to push the borders inward. Remember the Wel-Wel incident? It is a pretty silly spectacle watching Eritrea attempt to play the role of a colonial Italy (70 years later) and try to demand land from Ethiopia.

In any case, Ethiopia has an extremely strong legal case. If the Ethiopian civil administration is re-established in Badime, then it would be an embarassing defeat for Issaias. First, he would have to unequivocally accept the fact of Ethiopian sovereignty during the past 100 years in the disputed areas. Second, he would have to give up any hopes of creating new facts on the ground.

Most importantly though, he would have to explain why he is getting his people killed and destroying the economy of Eritrea on the small chance of expanding Eritrea's borders slightly into areas that it has never administered.

That is why there is war. To protect the egos of the EPLF leadership.

- Dagmawi


U.S. says Ethiopia, Eritrea stall on peace plan

05:41 p.m Jun 03, 1998 Eastern


WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday that Ethiopia and Eritrea had so far failed to accept its recommendations for resolving their border dispute, and voiced grave concern at a new bout of fighting between them.

In a statement that detailed for the first time peace proposals advanced jointly by the United States and Rwanda, the State Department called on the Horn of Africa neighbours to end their four-week-old conflict and accept the mediators' plan.

The statement was issued as Ethiopian and Eritrean troops battled for control of disputed territory about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Witnesses reported artillery and mortar exchanges.

``The United States and Rwanda regret that (their) recommendations have not yet been accepted by both sides as the basis for a peaceful resolution of this dispute,'' State Department spokesman James Rubin said.

``We are gravely concerned by the resumption of hostilities in recent days, which will render more difficult efforts to achieve a peaceful outcome.''

The United States sees both Ethiopia and Eritrea as allies in its standoff with the Islamic fundamentalist government in neighbouring Sudan, and has moved quickly to try to quell the border conflict.

Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice made an unsuccessful mediation bid last month and has now returned to the region for a second shuttle mission.

Rubin said U.S.-Rwandan mediation had been requested by both warring countries and that a plan presented to the parties at the end of May was based on the belief that ``a practical, principled basis'' existed to end the conflict peacefully.

The plan calls for Eritrean forces to withdraw from the border town of Badme to positions they held before May 6, when hostilities broke out there, and for a small observer force to be deployed in the town.

It says the previous civilian administration should return to Badme and an investigation be held on the events of May 6.

It calls on both parties to agree to ``swift and binding delimitation'' of their border, based on ``established colonial treaties and international law applicable to such treaties.''

The plan also calls on both parties to demilitarize the entire common border as soon as possible.