ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has called for calm in the border dispute between the two red sea nations of Eritrea and Djibouti, with which it shares common border.
The statement from regional heavyweight Ethiopia on Sunday will be keenly watched as the landlocked nation of 100 million people used to utilize Eritrean ports for its import and export trade 20 years ago.
That changed when a border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998-2000 which cost around 70,000 lives on both sides saw Ethiopia lose access to Eritrean ports and instead rely on Djiboutian ports.
Ethiopia views its access to Djiboutian ports, through which about 95 percent of its external trade passes through, as a national security issue, raising fears the Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute could turn into a conflict involving Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s current non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has also raised speculations about Ethiopia’s role in the scheduled Monday meeting of UNSC to discuss the Eritrea-Djibouti border tensions.
Ethiopia’s statement also supported Saturday’s African Union (AU) Chairperson Moussa FakiMahamat statement calling for a deployment of fact finding mission to the disputed area.
Djibouti has appealed to the AU and UNSC to resolve the border dispute, while accusing Eritrea of moving its troops to the disputed territory.
A border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti resulted in armed clashes in June 2008, leaving several people dead from both sides.
A mediation effort led by the Gulf Kingdom of Qatar in 2010 led to a Qatari peacekeeping force being stationed in the Eritrea-Djibouti border.
Tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti resurfaced after a 450 strong Qatari peacekeeping force stationed in their common border left the area abruptly on Wednesday.
The Qatari troops left the Eritrea-Border Djibouti after Eritrea signaled its support for Saudi Arabia led efforts to isolate Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and severed ties earlier this month.
Qatar has denied the charge but its ties to regional Saudi rival Iran and support for various Islamist groups has put it at odds with fellow Gulf region countries.
©Alleastafrica and agencies