NAIROBI, 16 April (IRIN) - Ethiopian
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said the recent ruling on the border with
Eritrea will enable his country to build peace and democracy, and these
would never be exchanged for "territorial expansion".
In an interview with Ethiopian television and radio on Monday, he said the decision had "unequivocally emphasised" that any border conflict should only be resolved by law. "The ruling has supported and complied with the stance that we were pursuing from the outset," he said. "In my opinion this is our major victory."
An independent Boundary Commission, based in The Hague, on Saturday handed down its verdict on where the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea should lie. The Commission was established when the two sides signed the Algiers peace accord in December 2000 after two years of bitter war over their disputed border.
"Peace, development and democracy cannot go hand in hand with territorial expansion or ruling people without their wish," Meles said. "We will not hand over our peace and democracy for the sake of [the Eritrean port of] Assab or any other issue."
Opposition parties in landlocked Ethiopia have been calling for access to the sea and say the issue of Assab should have been included in the border arbitration.
Meles also lashed out at Eritrea, accusing its leadership of "military adventurism", the pro-government Walta Information Centre reported. "It would be unrealistic to expect that the [Eritrean] regime would refrain from acts of provocation aimed at derailing the peace process," he was quoted as saying.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the Eritrean government was trying to cause "confusion" by stating it had been awarded the village of Badme. In an interview with 'Abyotawi Democracy', the newspaper of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), he said the ruling had shown Badme "to be an integral part of Ethiopian sovereign territory".
Eritrea says that based on the border line drawn by the Boundary Commission in the western sector, "it has been confirmed that all the [disputed] areas, including Badme ...are sovereign Eritrean territory."
There is confusion over who has been awarded Badme, the area where the border dispute flared up into full-scale war in 1998. Analysts told IRIN both governments were putting forward diametrically opposed views of the ruling to convince their citizens that the sacrifices and loss of life had not been in vain.
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