In its latest report, the Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) noted that both sides had been invited to put forward "technical" comments on the finalised border map, which was submitted to the parties in December.
It noted that Ethiopia's response went "far beyond the scope" of comments on the map. "The main thrust of the Ethiopian comments is that the boundary should be varied so as to take better account of human and physical geography," the report stated.
The ruling on the new border between the two countries was issued by the EEBC on 13 April 2002, in a decision deemed "final and binding", and which both Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to abide by in the Algiers peace agreement of December 2000. The peace accord put an end to a bitter two-year border war, sparked by a skirmish in the village of Badme which has now become symbolic for both countries. Addis Ababa and Asmara both claim they have been awarded Badme and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned recently there would be "problems" if the village went to Eritrea.
In its report, the EEBC stressed it did not have the power to change the April decision and vary the border. The only way this could be considered was with the agreement of both parties, it said.
"Notwithstanding the clarity with which the Commission has stated the limits upon its authority, Ethiopia has continued to seek variations to the boundary line delimited in the April Decision, and has done so in terms that appear, despite protestations to the contrary, to undermine not only the April Decision but also the peace process as a whole," the report stated.
"It may be regrettable, but it is by no means unusual, for boundary delimitation and subsequent demarcation to divide communities," it noted.
The Commission expressed "disquiet" over statements made by Ethiopia that it "will not adhere to the April Decision if its claim to 'refinement' of the April Decision delimitation is not accepted".
The report also expressed concern over protection of Commission personnel involved in the demarcation process and urged the UN peacekeeping force (UNMEE) to support any protection given by Ethiopia and Eritrea.
"It hardly needs saying that any assault on Boundary Commission personnel would likely lead to an immediate withdrawal of such personnel, the cessation of the demarcation process and the consequent frustration of the whole boundary demarcation process," it warned.
According to the latest timetable issued by the Commission, the physical positioning of the border pillars is set to begin in July in the eastern sector.
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