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Ethiopia, Eritrea sign peace agreement

eritrea graphic
 

ALGIERS, Algeria (Reuters) -- Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a comprehensive peace agreement in Algiers on Tuesday formally ending a two-year border war that cost tens of thousands of lives in the impoverished Horn of Africa.

War between the two nations, often plagued by famine and drought, erupted in mid-1998 following border skirmishes.

Apart from those killed in the fighting, tens of thousands of others were taken prisoner or displaced from their homes before an internationally brokered ceasefire took hold in June.

Eritrea, a country of three million on the Red Sea coast, was a province of Ethiopia, its much larger landlocked neighbour to the south with a population of 60 million, before winning its independence by referendum in 1993, with Ethiopian support.

  MESSAGE BOARD
Horn of Africa
 

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika mediated between the two sides and offered to host the formal signature of the peace pact.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki arrived for the signing ceremony, the official APS news agency said. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was also present and was expected to be joined by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

U.S. special envoy Anthony Lake, who also helped mediate the accord, said he was "convinced the peace agreement would stick."

"There is one very significant thing about this agreement in an African context, that is...that the underlying cause of conflicts in Africa is the kind of winner takes all political culture," Lake told reporters.

But he stressed that the Ethiopian-Eritrean accord would "become a precedent for elsewhere in Africa in which people learn to accept less than complete victory."

The U.S. diplomat said a 4,200-strong U.N. peacekeeping force was deploying well and quickly along the disputed border and should be completely in place by February.

Annan said last week the U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), with military personnel from 27 countries, would work with both sides to build confidence.

The Ethiopian parliament last week endorsed the six-article agreement which commits both sides to a permanent cessation of military activities along their 1,000-km (600-mile) border.

"Each party shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the other," the agreement says.

The text calls for the establishment of a neutral, five-member commission based in Geneva with a mandate to demarcate the border based on colonial treaties.

The commission should aim to complete its work within three years and "each party shall respect the border so determined, as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other party," the text says.

Another commission will be established to address the impact of the conflict on the civilian population including the thousands deported from each country.

Ethiopia called on Tuesday for any of its citizens, as well as international organisations, who have suffered as a result of the war to register their claims with the government.

The government said in a statement that Ethiopians who have suffered loss, damage or destruction of property or whose human rights have been violated as a result of the "Eritrean war of aggression" should present their claims to The National Committee for Collecting Compensation Claims.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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RELATED SITES:
U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
Government of Eritrea
Eritrean Network Information Center
Organization of African Unity (OAU)


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