Eritrea accepts peace deal after Ethiopian incursion
U.N. council meets
February 27, 1999
Ethiopia broke through Eritrea's fortified Badme front Friday and was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep into Eritrean territory, U.N. Security Council President Robert Fowler of Canada said.
Diplomats said Eritrea's unexpected acceptance of the Organization of African Unity plan was a positive step in reaching a solution to the border dispute.
Eritrea's U.N. ambassador, Haile Menkerios, said in a letter to the Security Council, "The government of Eritrea accepts the OAU framework agreement to pave the way for an expedited demarcation" of its border.
The Security Council welcomed the move, and U.S. President Bill Clinton applauded the "important" decision by Eritrea.
Clinton said he joined "the international community in urging both parties to end the fighting immediately."
But diplomats in New York said the acceptance clearly indicated that Eritrean troops were in trouble at Badme and that the government feared Ethiopia would try to take even more territory.
The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Eritrea had placed most of its military strength at the front, which is 990 kilometers (605 miles) north of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The Horn of Africa neighbors are contesting parts of their barren, largely uninhabited 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border that were never clearly demarcated. They have clashed in air and ground combat since Tuesday, and each has claimed to have inflicted heavy losses.
The latest fighting began February 6 and ended an eight-month stalemate after full-scale war killed 1,000 people in May and June. The recent battles have centered mainly on the Badme front.
The OAU presented a peace proposal in November. Ethiopia agreed to the framework almost immediately, but Eritrea had rejected a clause demanding unilateral withdrawal of its troops from the contested Badme to allow Ethiopia to return to the region it controlled before May.
Eritrea requested an urgent Security Council meeting Saturday to "condemn Ethiopia's territorial ambitions and aggression against Eritrea," President Isaias Afwerki wrote.
The council convened with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The council demanded an immediate halt to all hostilities, welcomed the Eritrean decision and supported peace efforts by Annan and the OAU.
"This agreement remains a viable and sound basis for a peaceful resolution to the conflict," read a late draft of the council statement.
Security Council resolutions have demanded an immediate cease-fire and halt to arms sales to both countries. On Saturday in Addis Ababa, government spokesman Selome Tadesse said Ethiopian troops were consolidating their positions along the border. Fighting continued on the Badme front but was less intense than a day earlier, she said.
Reports from Asmara, the Eritrean capital, said Eritrean troops beat a retreat in parts of Badme. Menkerios, in his letter, said that Ethiopian troops advanced "10 kilometers (six miles) into Eritrean territory beyond the disputed Badme sector."
Ethiopia and Eritrea worked together to oust Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 after a long civil war.
Two years later, Eritrea's 3.5 million citizens gained independence after a referendum from Ethiopia, which has a population of 58 million. But relations soured and economic rivalry intensified after Eritrea introduced its own currency in late 1997.
Eritrea reports heavy fighting with Ethiopia
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