Lack of talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea endangers peace – UN envoy

“Imagine the last (border demarcation) pillar is planted, the United Nations is withdrawn, the two parties are still polarized; they still don’t like each other, they’re still not talking to each other, that endangers the peace between them – because when you do not talk to each other misunderstandings can lead to conflict,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Legwaila J. Legwaila, told a news briefing in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa yesterday. “Therefore, it is important for the Friends of the Parties, the Guarantors of the peace process, to help us and the Secretary General persuade these people to start normalizing their relations,” he added. Mr. Legwaila heads the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), created by the UN Security Council in July 2000 after the two countries signed a cessation of hostilities agreement ending the war. An international boundary commission is at present demarcating the disputed border but Ethiopia has raised several objections that still have to be resolved. Saying it would be “really tragic” if the two sides were still not talking to each other by the time the border was demarcated and the UN left, Mr. Legwaila noted in reply to a question that no strengthening of UNMEE’s mandate could resolve the political problem. “It would be difficult to have more clout than we have now, especially clout vis-à-vis political dialogue,” he said. “We can have clout vis-à-vis the mandate, [it] can be become a Chapter VII mandate (authorizing force), that could give us some clout, but there is no Chapter VII for political dialogue unfortunately, therefore dialogue can only be done by moral suasion.”

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