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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Meeting of the Witnesses

Jendayi Frazer , Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks to the United Nations
New York, NY
February 22, 2006

We gather in New York at the urging of the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan and on the invitation of the United States. We are here with the common goal to urge Ethiopia and Eritrea to fully implement the agreement they committed themselves to honor through their signatures, and which we witnessed at their request, in Algiers in December 2000.

It has been over five years since that historic event, and yet the people on both sides of the border still await an internationally recognized border that can end the Cold War between their countries. We meet today in solidarity with a single focus on a simple but compelling mission -- to call on the parties to fulfill their commitments under the terms of the Algiers Accord. The task for the parties is clear. Each of us must be firm in our resolve to advocate forcefully without any hesitation on the importance that the parties fulfill their promise to demarcate the border and refrain from the threat or use of force against each other. In keeping with these promises, they need to resolve their differences and build a peaceful and stable relationship. For the people of both countries, there can be no alternative to meeting the basic and clearly defined responsibilities articulated in the Algiers Accord.

Today, the United States calls on the witnesses to affirm without reservation our full support for:

  the Algiers Accord and final and binding nature of the decisions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission;

  the necessity of holding an EEBC meeting soon and;

  the necessity for the parties to attend the EEBC meeting and cooperate with the EEBC in border demarcation.

We remind the parties that it is their responsibility to fulfill their commitments in the Algiers Agreement. Time is running out. Failure to exercise the leadership necessary to complete this endeavor will have far reaching and lasting consequences, most importantly in the suffering of their people and continued instability in the region, and also in the numerous opportunities missed to engage as respected and productive members of the international community.

I would like to take a moment to report to the witnesses on the results of my trip to the border earlier this month. My purpose was to see for myself the border, to understand the challenges the EEBC faces in demarcating the border, and what we as witnesses face in supporting the peaceful resumption of the demarcation process. I also wanted to hear from UNMEE directly what role it might play in demarcation. My team and I realize that the demarcation of the border will not be easy. But we understand that the border's demarcation is an important milestone in the process of cementing a permanent peace. Both Eritrean and Ethiopian citizens and relatives residing in the United States have commented that a permanent peace will be secure when there is also reconciliation.

Border demarcation is a necessary step to achieve a more permanent peace. I came away from my visit to the border with a profound regret for the human suffering from the conflict and the importance of both parties to reconcile their differences for the sake of their people and the future of their countries. This reconciliation will have to address dealing with POWs, displaced civilians, landmine problems along the border, cross-border economic development, demobilization of troops, job training and job creation, debt financing consideration, economic rehabilitation, and restoration of normal diplomatic relations.

Secretary Rice also asked me to assess whether a United States diplomatic initiative could help resolve the impasse. I would like to report to the witnesses that as a result of my travel to the border and discussions with officials of both governments, I believe that there are indications of movement by the parties to address the border issue. The holding of this witness meeting will begin an important process, testing whether the parties themselves are committed to the process and whether we as witnesses can assist the parties to achieve a successful start of the demarcation process and final normalization of relations to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region. The EEBC plans to call a meeting of the parties to London in the near future. We must encourage the EEBC to finalize such a meeting and, most importantly, urge the parties to attend the meeting. After the meeting of the EEBC the process of demarcation should resume. Each step is critical, each action important. We must work with the parties, not only encouraging their participation but also standing firmly against delay and hesitation. There is no alternative.

As witnesses, we are dedicated to the successful conclusion of the demarcation process. In this context, to help the parties achieve this goal we recognize that there is a need for technical discussions. This is not a renegotiation or change of the fundamental decision of the EEBC. Rather, it is aimed at supporting and ensuring that the EEBC decision is implemented. We also seek the Boundary Commission's acceptance of the U.S. offer to provide a neutral facilitator who will assist and support these technical discussions and the overall demarcation process.

There is also a monetary cost to successfully achieving this objective. At least $10 million will be required for demarcation and at least $250,000 is needed for the first meeting. I call on the witnesses to replenish the trust fund that will support the demarcation process. The parties are responsible for support to the EEBC. However, we must be ready to handle these costs if necessary. We cannot allow any excuses for non-compliance. I ask each of you to help replenish these funds. Only in this way can we encourage and demand compliance.

The meeting today is an important step toward resolution of the issue that started a long-running and bloody conflict. We again thank SYG Annan for proposing this meeting and for you accepting the U.S. invitation, and we look forward to working with our fellow witnesses and others on this important issue.

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