Eritrean President Expresses "Astonishment" at UN Security Council Resolution 1226 - Refuses to Sign OAU Peace Plan

Eritrean News Agency; Feb 1, 1999

Asmara, Feb 1 (Eritrean News Agency)- In an interview with national television (ERI-TV) on Sunday night, President Isaias Afwerki reaffirmed that "Eritrea will never fire the first bullet" even as Ethiopia pushes its agenda of war. The president underlined that his country "remains engaged in the OAU peace process and will stick to a peaceful settlement of the dispute until the last second."

"The OAU Framework Agreement is not a take it or leave it package but an open-ended peace proposal subject to discussion and clarifications. Eritrea, as indeed is also the case with Ethiopia, has a legitimate right to seek clarifications and to ask for amendments as long as these are valid and substantive," the president argued.

He said that the Eritrean government has a responsibility to bring about a fair and viable resolution of the border dispute so that "future generations may not shoulder an inherited burden." In this sense, it was "vital that ambiguities and contradictory elements be thrashed out so as to lead to an enduring agreement that will not be throttled in mid-stream."

President Isaias expressed astonishment on the timing and content of the UN Security Council Resolution of January 29, 1999. Eritrea had asked for clarifications from the OAU High-Level Delegation on December 12, 1998, although it had given its preliminary responses on November 8 and December 15, 1998, respectively. The US Special Envoy who visited Eritrea on January 18th had informed the government that the OAU "would respond to these queries in the coming four days." The OAU Secretary General seemed to contradict this assertion when asked for confirmation stating that "this was the sole mandate of the OAU and the response would be given to Eritrea from the current Chairman at an unspecified date." And then, inexplicably, the responses were dispatched rather indirectly towards the middle of the week. The Security Council resolution followed quickly even before Eritrea had a chance to look into the responses. This rather strange sequence of events seemed to reflect the personalized actions of some officials in the State Department although "I do not believe that is necessarily reflects US policy and wider interests," President Isaias said.

President Isaias also pointed out the imbalance in the Security Council resolution which "seemed to ignore the gross violation of human rights perpetrated by Ethiopia and widely reported by independent agencies, including Amnesty International."

Ethiopia continues its policy of intimidation and blackmail, letting it be known that it has finished its preparations and is about to launch war, the president said. But, "war is not a picnic," as the TPLF strategists seem to think, and the ensuing devastation to both countries is not difficult to image if war breaks out. The president evoked in this regard the three-pronged offensive blueprint that the Mengistu regime had worked out, with the help of its Soviet advisors, to totally "decimate" the EPLF from its strongholds "in two weeks" during its Red Star Campaign in 1982. But history took another course. The president stressed that "the only way forward lies in a cessation of hostilities and perseverance in the peace process in order to arrive at a solution acceptable to both sides."

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