Ethiopia can’t arrange with Eritrea without U.S. diplomatic team

A U.S. diplomatic team has arrived in Ethiopia in an attempt to help mediate a simmering border dispute with Eritrea, an embassy spokesman said Thursday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer was leading the effort end the dispute that threatens to re-ignite a border war that left tens of thousands of people dead from 1998-2000. Frazer and her team were expected to spend four days in Ethiopia before attending an African Union summit in Khartoum on Monday.

"The U.S. Embassy can confirm that the assistant secretary of state is in the country," a U.S spokesman said in a brief statement. During her visit Frazer was expected to meet with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and visit the border zone, presently patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers. Frazer has canceled a visit to Eritrea because the government there would not help organize the trip, U.S. officials from Washington said late Wednesday.

In 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed on binding international arbitration to determine the unmarked border between the two countries. But when the Border Commission ruled in 2002 that a town at the center of the dispute belonged to Eritrea, Ethiopia refused to allow the border to be demarcated. Eritrea has demanded that the international community force Ethiopia to accept the ruling while Meles has called for negotiations. Eritrea has rejected any suggestion of talks or mediation until the border has been marked and the town, Badme, turned over to Eritrea.

"Now, when almost four years have elapsed, the government of Eritrea cannot countenance ... other 'diplomatic' efforts or 'mechanisms' that will substitute legality, the respect of the rule of law and the implementation of final and binding decisions," a government statement said. "The government of Eritrea reaffirms again that such endeavors will only entail further delay and suffering and will not consequently have any legality and political relevance," it added. Angered at the international community's failure to ensure that the ruling is obeyed, Eritrea in October banned U.N. helicopter flights and vehicle movements at night on its side of the buffer zone. In December, the U.N. agreed to Eritrea's demand that Western peacekeepers leave the force monitoring the Eritrean side of the border, reports the AP. N.U.

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