Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Security Council heard calls yesterday for the peaceful resolution of the current border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, which flared into fighting in the Horn of Africa in June that killed at least 35 people and left dozens of others wounded. Representatives of Djibouti and Eritrea outlined their positions to a Council meeting that also heard statements from the Council’s 15 members, in which they stressed the need for restraint and backed existing international efforts to mediate a settlement. Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh, whose country requested the Council meeting, asked the panel to call on Eritrea to meet its international obligations and move to end the dispute, which centres on an undemarcated border in an area known as Doumeira. If not, he said, sanctions may be needed.
The armed conflict erupted in early June after weeks of tensions and military build-up on both sides, and a subsequent UN fact-finding mission reported that the dispute had the potential to destabilize the entire region. Mr. Guelleh said Djibouti’s priority was to demilitarize the area and re-establish mutual trust by reactivating existing bilateral mechanisms and creating some sort of arbitration to demarcate the border. He said Eritrea had continued to reinforce its troops and refuse to negotiate since June, and Djibouti therefore had no choice but to mass troops at the border and defend its territory.
Eritrea’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Araya Desta, said his country had already dealt with Djibouti’s “unwarranted statements” at a previous Council meeting on the issue, adding that it was Djibouti that had provoked the conflict in June. Mr. Desta said Eritrea had exercised restraint and not taken any land belonging to Djibouti, and there had not been any new developments since the fighting four months ago.
Eritrea refused to receive the UN fact-finding mission when it visited after the fighting, and consequently only Djibouti’s version of events was made available to it. The mission concluded that Djibouti was being drawn into a crippling and expensive military mobilization to deal with the situation.
(From UN Press Release)