Eritrea + 1 more

Eritrea-Ethiopia: Border ruling stays as it is, commission says

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ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI, 28 March (IRIN) - The independent Boundary Commission has rejected calls by Ethiopia for variations to the contested border with neighbouring Eritrea and called for moving ahead with demarcation.
In an 11-page "observations" report issued on 21 March, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) also stated that the now-symbolic village of Badme - where the two-year border war flared up - was in Eritrea.

The latest decision follows a 141-page clarification request put forward by Ethiopia in January concerning last year's border ruling, issued on 13 April. Ethiopia has recently indicated it may not accept the ruling unless certain changes are made.

"It [EEBC] cannot allow one party to claim a territorial right, to insist on adjustments of parts of the boundary which that party finds disadvantageous," the EEBC said in its latest report. It described the evidence put forward by Ethiopia as "inadequate".

"The maps submitted by Ethiopia were inconsistent as to the location of Badme village and the evidence was nothing like what might have been expected," it said.

"Since Badme village, as opposed to some other parts of Badme region lay on what was found to be the Eritrean side of the [1902] treaty line, there was no need for the commission to consider any evidence of Eritrean governmental presence there although Eritrea did in fact submit such evidence," it added.

REACTION

Senior Ethiopian officials told IRIN on Friday that Ethiopia was committed to the peace process and agreed that the 13 April ruling was "final and binding". They said a team of lawyers was analysing the latest report by the EEBC.

Eritrea's acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed concurred that under the December 2000 Algiers peace agreement, both countries had agreed that the border ruling would be "final and binding".

"No party is allowed to change this," he told IRIN. "We are talking about the rule of law".

He said Eritrea was committed to working for peace and hoped Ethiopia would do the same. "There is no good war and no bad peace," he said. "We have seen too much devastation."

The latest report now opens the way to physical demarcation of the 1,000 km border which is due to start in the eastern sector in July.

"The parties must cooperate with the commission in ensuring that the commission be able to complete its work [as] set out by the schedule," the EEBC report stated.

LEGAL DECISION

Diplomatic sources close to the peace process also urged both countries to now push forward and accept the decision.

"The ruling is a wholly legal decision and has nothing to do with the two sides' positions regarding the [1998-2000] war," said one source.

"It would be impossible to unpick a ruling by the EEBC," the source added. "This is an internationally recognised legal body. By doing so, you are opening the door to international anarchy."

However, the EEBC allows the parties to make final adjustments if they both agree to do so.

"It is inherent in any boundary delimitation that it may give rise to anomalies on the ground," the report said.

"This was expressly anticipated and expected by the parties in the December 2000 agreement and by the commission in demarcation directions of July 2002," it said.

"This is essentially a matter for the parties to deal with by agreement between themselves or by agreeing to empower the commission to vary the boundary or by turning to the United Nations..."

[ENDS]

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