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Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government warns Eritrea against mounting
a war after Ethiopian National Defense Forces waged attacks destroying three Eritrean military camps earlier this week.
In what appears to be the first preemptive Ethiopian attack against Eritrea in over a decade, national defense forces penetrated over 10 miles inside Eritrean territories, destroying three military camps in Ramid, Gelahbe and Gimbi areas.
The attacks came in an apparent first realization of a new strategy Meles announced over a year ago. Meles had said after years of unheeded calls to Asmara to stop arming and sending subversive groups into Ethiopia, he is employing a strategy to sufficiently respond to attacks with military actions.
Denouncing the attacks, the Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu on Thursday said his government is contemplating actions to avenge; “a military bellicosity that encroaches on Eritrea’s sovereignty”.
“It is those who do not know the price of war who are hungry to go to war,” Ali was quoted by the AFP news agency on Friday explaining that Eritrea will not retaliate.
The Ethiopian government says Thursday’s attacks are limited to securing border security against militants that used the Eritrean camps to launch attacks inside its borders including one that killed five European tourists in January.
“The military camps housed terrorist groups and have been commanded and controlled by the regime in Asmara which continues to launch attacks against Ethiopia using its surrogates,” Shimeles Kemal, State Minister at the Government Affairs Communication Office, told Capital on Thursday.
The government says Thursday’s assaults, described as a successful mission that completely wiped out the targeted camps, will convey ‘the right message’ to the Eritrean government to stop arming militants that wage cross-border attacks.
Both the United States and France on Friday called for restraint of military actions as fears of the two neighbors returning into a full scale war loom.
Addis Ababa downplays fears that the latest attacks could lead to a full scale conflict between the two countries.
“Eritrea is not in a position to launch a war,” says State Minister Shimeles, “if they do we will respond accordingly, but they must understand the only gain it would bring them is demise.”
The United Nations says the Ethio- Eritrea unresolved border dispute that led to a bloody war in 1998 is still a pressing concern.
In 1998 the two countries unexpectedly entered into full scale hostilities, suffering massive casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars of expenses. The conflict ended in June 2000 when a peace deal was signed.
“I am concerned that this border issue has not been resolved in accordance with Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s [EBBC] recommendations. The Algiers Agreement of 2000 was able to address this war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. With the binding agreement on delimitation and demarcation between Eritrea and Ethiopia [border], it is up to the two countries to implement these recommendations,” said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a Capital interview in October.
In November 2006 both Ethiopia and Eritrea boycotted an EEBC meeting at The Hague which would have demarcated their disputed border using UN maps.
Ethiopia says it is ready to resume talks with Asmara to resolve the dispute.
“The Eritrean government needs to understand there is an open door to a peaceful solution; we are ready to resolve all of our disputes peacefully and through negotiation and discussion,” said State Minister Shimeles.
Unless Asmara complies and stops arming and sending militants into Ethiopian territories, the Ethiopian army says it will actively respond to attacks including with the likes of Thursday’s operation which the official said only involved Ethiopian ground forces.