By Jack Kimball
ASMARA, Aug 20 (Reuters) – Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accused the United States of fuelling conflicts in the Horn of Africa and urged Washington to change its policies in the latest round of finger-pointing between the two nations.
The comments, published on Monday, came days after Washington said it was considering placing Eritrea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism for allegedly aiding Islamists battling the Ethiopian-backed Somali government.
« The U.S. attempt to put into effect its strategy of monopoly and dominance through fomenting confrontation among peoples is leading the world to a dangerous path, » the Ministry of Information Web site, shabait.com, quoted Isaias as saying.
« U.S. Administration officials need to change their frame of thinking and put an end to their acts of adventurism, as well as weaving conspiracies to undermine our national interests. »
Asmara’s ties with Washington steadily worsened after an Ethiopian-backed Somali government offensive over the New Year ousted Islamists from Mogadishu. Diplomats said Washington tacitly backed Ethiopia, while Eritrea supported the Islamists.
The United Nations accused Asmara last month of sending large amounts of arms to the Islamists, echoing a similar report by the U.N. arms body last year. Eritrea denies this.
« The latest developments witnessed in Eritrea-U.S. relations emanated on the one hand from the existing situation in Somalia, and (are) connected with the Eritrean people’s steadfastness and resistance on the other, » Isaias said.
After its 30-year independence war with Ethiopia ended in 1991, Eritrea initially had blossoming ties with Washington. But relations quickly soured after a 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, the top U.S. counter-terrorism ally in the region.
Asmara says the United States has done little to force Ethiopia to accept a 5-year-old border ruling marking the nations’ shared frontier.
Over the last year in Asmara, a tit-for-tat diplomatic battle has been raging.
Washington says Eritrea is holding up diplomatic pouches, denying visas for U.S. diplomats and supporting the Islamists in Mogadishu whom, the United States says, have links to terrorists. Eritrea denies these claims.
Heightening tensions, Washington said early last week it was shutting down an Eritrean consulate in Oakland, California.
And U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said last week Washington could make a case to put Eritrea on the terrorism list with the likes of Iran, North Korea and Syria.