The United States on Thursday warned Eritrea that it faces “appropriate action” from the UN Security Council if it refuses to cooperate to resolve its border dispute with Djibouti peacefully.
US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said Asmara had defied the world community by attacking its smaller neighbor last June “in a violent confrontation that left 44 Djiboutian soldiers dead and many more missing.”
He said a UN fact-finding mission “has clearly documented the extent to which the Djiboutian govt has worked to resolve the crisis peacefully.”
Khalilzad said that in line with the mission’s recommendation, the United States was calling on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to send a high-level envoy to the area “immediately.”
“Eritrea should be given a clear timeframe in which to accept the assistance of the United Nations, the African Union or any other organization or body that is acceptable to both parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis,” he said.
“However if Eritrea rebuffs any such effort at resolution, the council must react appropriately,” he added.
France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert for his part proposed that the 15-member council begin early consultations on a text that would “strongly reiterate its demands to Eritrea, notably the withdrawal of its forces (from Djiboutian territory).”
He said such demands should be coupled with “a clear timeframe.”
Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh meanwhile urged the Council to demand that both parties be given three weeks to resolve the crisis.
“Any failure to comply should trigger sanctions from the Council,” he added.
But Eritrea’s UN Ambassador Araya Desta slammed what he called “the series of hostile campaigns” against his country and “the unwarranted statements that followed any concrete evidence.”
He asserted that the June border clashes was “instigated by the unprovoked attack unleashed by Djibouti against our units inside our own territory.”
“Contrary to the claims made, Eritrea has not taken any land that belongs to Djibouti and it does not have territorial ambitions,” he added.
Last June, the Security Council has already urged Eritrea to withdraw its troops from a border area in dispute with Djibouti. A similar demand was made by the African Union in July.
The long-running border row between Djibouti and Eritrea over the disputed Ras Doumeira promontory on the shores of the Red Sea flared up last June after previous clashes in 1996 and 1999.
The clashes have assumed a greater strategic significance because both France and the United States have bases in Djibouti, a former French colony. Some 100 French troops have deployed along the border.
The United States has more than 1,200 troops stationed in Djibouti, which hosts an anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa.