Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ethiopia Military Aggression Diversionary Ploy, Says Eritrea

March 15, 2012

Ethiopia Military Aggression Diversionary Ploy, Says Eritrea

Peter Clottey

Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu said Ethiopia’s admission of its military attack is a calculated ploy to divert the international community’s attention from its continuous 10-year occupation of Eritrean territory.

He expressed little surprise that Ethiopia embarked on what he called “a military bellicosity that encroaches on Eritrea’s sovereignty.”

Abdu said Eritrea is not to blame for what he said is Ethiopia’s failure to resolve its internal crisis.

“By its own admission, it’s an aggression against the sovereignty of Eritrean territory,” said Abdu. “The internal crisis in Ethiopia is due to the marginalization and exclusion of minor Ethiopian groups [because] of the regime’s narrow and backward policy of divide and rule being conducted by the Ethiopian regime.”

Ethiopia announced its forces attacked a military base inside Eritrea as an act of retaliation after accusing its neighbor of sponsoring groups that have carried out attacks inside Ethiopia.

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said Ethiopian troops moved 16 kilometers into Eritrea early Thursday and launched what he called a “successful attack” against two military posts used by “subversive groups.”

Ethiopia has often accused Eritrea of backing rebel groups that attack targets in Ethiopia's Afar area. But, Abdu said Ethiopia’s accusations that Eritrea supports terrorism are like accusing (inventor) Thomas Edison of supporting darkness.

“We have fought terrorism long ago before it became the talk of the town for politicians… and who are these terrorist subversive groups?” asked Abdu. “Almost all Ethiopians are fighting against the regime for the obvious reason because the regime is pursuing a narrow, corrupted policy, which services a very small family of the elite.”

Abdu said Asmara resists being dragged into “this kind of acrimony and provocation.” He said the Eritrean government is pondering its next line of action.

In its “final and binding” ruling on April 13th 2002, the UN-backed Eritrean and Ethiopian Border Commission awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea. But, Asmara insists Addis Ababa has repeatedly refused to implement the ruling.

Abdu said the UN Security Council has yet to take disciplinary action against Ethiopia’s decision to ignore the ruling for the past 10 years, despite Asmara’s repeated requests.

“We have been asking the Security Council to take serious measures against the Ethiopian regime, which is occupying our sovereign territory. The United Nations has not fulfilled this mandate and has not taken necessary measures,” said Abdu. “The United Nations should take action, legal punitive measures against the Ethiopian regime for its violations against the Eritrean and Ethiopian Border Commission verdict.”

The United States has urged both sides to exercise restraint. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is seeking further clarification from Ethiopia about its intentions.

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Ethiopia Attacks Military Posts Inside Eritrea

3/15/2012 6:37 PM ET

(RTTNews) - Ethiopia said Thursday it has attacked several military posts inside neighboring Eritrea, marking the first such direct military action to be undertaken by any of the two rival nations since the end of 1998-2000 war.

"The Ethiopian National Defense Force has entered into Eritrea, 16 kilometers from the border of Ethiopia, and launched a successful attack against military posts that have been used by subversive groups organized, supported, financed and trained by the Eritrean government," Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said Thursday.

Accusing Eritrea of supporting and training "subversive groups" to carry out "hit-and-run" operations inside Ethiopia, Kemal said: "As long as Eritrea remains a launching pad for attacks against Ethiopia, similar measures will continue to be taken."

He added that the camps and military posts targeted in the latest cross-border military operation "were used by anti-Ethiopian forces launching attacks inside Ethiopia, similar with the recent attack taken against European tourists."

He was apparently referring to a rebel attack on group of foreign tourists on the slopes of the famed Erta Ale volcano on January 18. Five foreign tourists, including two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were killed in the attack, while the rebels also abducted two German tourists.

Soon after the incident, Ethiopia blamed militants armed and trained by the Eritrean government for the attack on the tourist group and promised to take "whatever action is necessary" against Eritrea over the killings.

Eritrea, however, denied any involvement in the incident and said Ethiopia's reaction to the attack on the foreign tourists was in line with its general practice of blaming all such attacks on the Eritrean government.

The two abducted German tourists were released last week by a little-known Ethiopian rebel group calling themselves the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF). The group said it had handed over the two hostages to local Afar elders and German embassy officials on March 5. But their claim is yet to be confirmed.

Relations between the two neighboring African nations have been tense ever since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The ties worsened after a border conflict broke out between the two in 1998 over disputes related to border and trade-related matters.

It is estimated that some 80,000 people were killed in the two-year conflict, which also displaced some 750,000 from their homes. The conflict ended in 2000 by an Algiers peace deal, which also led to the setting up of the Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission and the the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ("EEBC"). Nevertheless, the border dispute that triggered the war remains unresolved.

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The Christian Science Monitor -

Ethiopian Army attacks Eritrean military post in retaliation for rebel violence

Ethiopia's attack on an Eritrean-based rebel camp is the latest sign of deteriorating relations with Eritrea. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year war in 1998 that killed some 70,000 people.
By William Davison, Correspondent
posted March 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm EDT
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ethiopia's military launched an attack against "terrorist camps" inside Eritrea today in one of the most serious incidents since conflict between the two neighbors ended 12 years ago.

The morning raid was in areas where the "Eritrean government trained, armed, and deployed hit-and-run terrorist and subversive groups," said government spokesman Shimeles Kemal.

He said the attack, which he described as a "proportional military measure" some 11 miles across Ethiopia's northeastern border, was in retaliation for Eritrea's backing of groups that have conducted atrocities inside Ethiopia, including a January attack in the Afar region that killed five Europeans tourists.

No details about the outcome of the strike, or the Eritrean response from its government in Asmara, are available yet.

Mr. Shimeles said that Eritrea's army is too weak to launch a counter-attack and that Ethiopia would take similar action if it continued to back subversive groups. Despite today's bellicose move, said Shimeles, talking is the way forward.

"While Ethiopia reserves its right to take retaliatory measures against Eritrea’s violent attacks, the government still upholds that the conflict between the two countries can only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue," he said.

It’s “not in Ethiopia’s interests” to return to hostilities, Ethiopia's State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Kristos said last month.

Increasingly aggressive Ethiopia

The attack sends a different message and is the culmination of an increasingly aggressive stance from Ethiopia toward its neighbor.

Last year Ethiopia said it would back rebels seeking to overthrow the government in Asmara. Recently it has also been applying diplomatic pressure on Eritrea, with which Ethiopia fought a two-year war from 1998-2000 that killed some 70,000 people.

Eritrea, which has been led by President Isayas Afewerki following independence from Ethiopia in 1993, has been under United Nations sanctions since 2009, primarily for supporting Somali militants, including the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab. Ethiopia also accuses Eritrea of backing groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which is fighting for autonomy for the largest and most-populous region of Ethiopia.

Analysts say the hostile relations are partly due to rivalry between the two heads of state, President Isayas, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The two led separate rebel movements that overthrew the Marxist military junta that ruled Ethiopia until 1991.

The government in Asmara says Ethiopia is the aggressor and that it has duped the international community into treating Eritrea as an international pariah. A United Nations group monitoring the sanctions said Eritrea was behind a foiled OLF plot to bomb Addis Ababa during January 2010's African Union summit.

After leading an independence struggle that lasted more than three decades, Isayas is regarded as having become increasingly autocratic. There is no independent press and the government has never held a general election. Human Rights Watch described it as a "giant prison."

Last year, Ethiopia tried to have stringent economic sanctions placed upon Eritrea that would have crippled its booming mining industry and cut revenue from an important tax on remittances. Officials from Addis Ababa have repeatedly warned the international community that they will deal unilaterally with the Eritrean threat if it does not act.

Escalation likely

The "magnitude and nature" of this attack makes escalation likely, Ethiopia analyst Jawar Mohammed says. Eritrea has been conducting military drills, possibly in anticipation of an attack since Ethiopia accused it of murdering the tourists, he says.

"It is quite likely that Eritrea will respond in kind. And this tug-of-war could escalate into a full blown confrontation," he believes.

Eritrea will now focus on a diplomatic offensive to again try to convince the world that it is the victim of Ethiopian aggression, while launching one of its proxies to attack its enemy, says an adviser to the Ethiopian government.

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