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Ethiopia: Eritrea

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Ethiopian authorities to accept the final and binding verdict of the International Ethiopian Eritrean Boundary Commission and withdraw its forces from the disputed areas. (222672)

The UK’s policy towards the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute is based on three principles: to avoid any return to war, which would be unacceptable; for the border to be demarcated; and for the parties to normalise their relations. Ethiopia and Eritrea should agree a way forward to allow demarcation to proceed and for a normalisation process to begin, as set out in the Algiers Agreements of June and December 2000, to which both Ethiopia and Eritrea are signatories.

We have set out this policy to both Ethiopia and Eritrea, including in November 2007 when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. The former Minister for the Middle East, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), most recently discussed the border situation when he met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in June and the Eritrean ambassador in July. In addition, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials continually reiterate these messages to both the Ethiopian and Eritrean ambassadors to London and to their interlocutors in the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Addis Ababa and Asmara respectively.

Even with the termination of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) on 31 July the UNSC made clear the Algiers Agreements remain in force. The UN Secretary-General will continue to monitor the situation and consult both parties in an effort to (1) achieve a comprehensive and lasting settlement of their border dispute, and (2) help the countries to normalise their relations.

We will continue to pursue the policy above with our international partners, including through the efforts of the United Nations with the parties, to which UK efforts are closely aligned and to which we give our support.