Eritrea: Ethiopian attack won't entrap us

2012-03-16 19:07
Addis Ababa - Eritrea said on Friday an attack by Ethiopian forces inside its territory was provocative but would not "entrap" it, signalling reluctance to be sucked back into armed conflict with its bitter foe.

Ethiopia said on Thursday its troops raided three military bases in the neighbouring Red Sea state which it said were used by Ethiopian rebels.

The assaults were the first on Eritrean soil that Ethiopia has admitted to since the end of a 1998-2000 war that killed 70 000 people. Eritrea says there have been others.

"The objective of the attack ... is to divert attention from the central issue of the regime's flagrant violation of international law and illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories," Eritrea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Eritrea ... will not be entrapped by such deceitful ploys that are aimed at derailing and eclipsing the underlying fundamental issues."

A vicious row over the position of Eritrea and Ethiopia's shared border was not resolved at the end of the war.

The Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruled in 2002 that the border village of Badme belonged to Eritrea.

However, the village remains in Ethiopia and Eritrea blames the international community, and the United Nations in particular, for not forcing Ethiopia to accept the border.

Ethiopian ground forces targeted three locations around 16km inside south-eastern Eritrea.

Shimeles Kemal, Ethiopia's government spokesman, said Eritrea has used the bases to train an Ethiopian rebel group that Addis Ababa says killed five foreign tourists and kidnapped two others in Ethiopia's remote Afar region in January.

Eritrea denies any involvement.

"As we underlined at the time, the recent deplorable killing and abduction of tourists has also been misconstrued by the ... [Ethiopian] regime and its backers as a 'blessing in disguise' to rationalise its unlawful acts," the Foreign Ministry said.

Read more on:    ethiopia  |  eritrea  |  east africa
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