Ethiopia says wants talks to solve border dispute

July 31st, 2008 | by addis portal |

ADDIS ABABA, July 31 (Reuters) – Ethiopia said on Thursday it wanted to resolve a border impasse with Eritrea by dialogue, but might defend itself if its Red Sea neighbour violated its territory.

Eritrea is angry that the United Nations has not enforced a 2007 ruling by an independent boundary commission awarding most of the territory in dispute along their 1,000 km (620 mile) border to Eritrea.

The U.N. Security Council voted on Wednesday to disband its 1,700-strong force on the volatile border — a move that had been expected since Eritrea cut the force’s fuel supplies in February.

“Ethiopia does not entertain war as an option to resolve the impasse created by Eritrea,” said Wahade Belay, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry.

“However, Ethiopia reserves the right to defend itself should Eritrea attempt to violate its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

The two countries signed a peace agreement in Algiers in 2000 after a two-year war that killed some 70,000 people.

“Ethiopia is ready to resolve the crisis including normalisation of an overall relations with Eritrea through dialogue,” Wahade said.

He was speaking after the Security Council appealed to both sides to “show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat of use of force”.

He criticised council members for failing to take punitive measures against Eritrea — which also says it will not start a war — for what he said were violations of the Algiers pact.

“The U.N. has allowed itself to be humiliated by a rogue regime in Eritrea which is creating instability in the Horn of Africa,” he said. (edited by Richard Meares) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit http://africa.reuters.com/)

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