Global Policy Forum

UN Team Heads for Horn

May 8, 2000

The United Nations Security Council is to send seven of its ambassadors to Ethiopia and Eritrea this week to try to revive stalled negotiations aimed at resolving their border war. Peace talks mediated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) collapsed last Thursday with both countries blaming each other. The conflict is hampering efforts to provide relief for millions of people in the region who are facing famine as a result of a prolonged drought.

The UN delegation, led by the United States ambassador Richard Holbrooke, has been visiting central Africa to discuss peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will now divert north to try to stave off renewed fighting in the two-year-old Horn conflict which is estimated to have cost the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians.

The ambassadors will urge both sides "to refrain from resorting to force and further hostilities and to commit immediately, seriously and without precondition to negotiations", according to the terms for the mission agreed on Sunday after the Security Council met in emergency session.

They will also "express in the strongest possible terms the council's support for the OAU peace process" and for continuing efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement.

Uneasy calm

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea say they have accepted in principle a framework peace agreement drafted by the OAU, but they cannot agree on how to implement it.

The conflict began in May 1998, when Eritrean forces moved into a disputed piece of territory in the Badme area at the western end of the border. It subsequently spread to three separate fronts. The fiercest fighting was in February 1999, when the Ethiopians recaptured Badme. Since then an uneasy calm has prevailed, broken only by isolated incidents of fighting, as both sides have built up their forces along the border.

A number of governments providing relief to the drought-stricken Horn of Africa have pointed out in recent months that an end to the border dispute would allow them to concentrate efforts more fully on combating the food crisis.

More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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