Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D. on the Signing of the Ethiopia - Eritrea Agreement


I warmly welcome the signing today in Algiers of a comprehensive peace agreement between the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Building on the ceasefire announced in June, this agreement marks a very significant step in the normalisation of relations between these two countries.

Building peace and reaching agreement requires leaders to show courage and to take risks. I congratulate Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Isias Afwerki and other political leaders in both countries for seizing this moment to set aside their differences in the interest of developing peace and stability. I would also like to pay tribute to those who mediated the negotiations that led to this agreement, especially the Organisation for African Unity, President Bouteflika of Algeria and his representatives Mr Ahmed Ouyahia and Mr Abdelkader Messahel, the US Special Envoy, Mr Anthony Lake, and the European Union's Special Representative, Senator Rino Serri. The agreement signed today will also greatly assist the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) to carry out its mandate.

Today's agreement offers the prospect of a lasting peace to the war weary peoples of both countries. Peace and stability are essential if the enormous development needs facing the two societies are to be met. I urge all political leaders to continue to show the courage necessary to ensure that the opportunities created by this agreement are built upon. I assure them that Ireland will remain fully supportive of the peace process and will continue to assist wherever practicable.

Note for editors

The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea centred on the border area where jurisdiction has been disputed since before Eritrea's declaration of independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Today's comprehensive agreement is the result of intensive negotiations that have taken place since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in June of this year. The talks were held under the auspices of the OAU and were mediated by President Bouteflika of Algeria and his representatives Mr Ahmed Ouyahia and Mr Abdelkader Messahel, the US Special Envoy, Mr Anthony Lake, and the European Union's Special Representative, Senator Rino Serri.

In the agreement, Ethiopia and Eritrea accept the appointment of an arbitration commission to deal with border demarcation and delimitation and a second commission to deal with compensation issues. The agreement also outlines a set of procedures for investigating the causes of the conflict.

On 15 September, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1320 (2000) authorised the deployment of up to 4,200 troops for UNMEE to monitor the ceasefire and to assist in ensuring the observance of the security commitments agreed by the parties to the conflict. Ethiopia and Eritrea had called for the deployment of UN troops in the June ceasefire agreement. Due to peacekeeping commitments elsewhere, Ireland is not contributing troops to UNMEE.

- The Irish Government recently contributed $75,000 to the OAU liaison mission to UNMEE. Ethiopia is one of Ireland Aid's priority countries and by the end of 2000, a total of £16.34million will have been provided to the country from the Bilateral Aid Programme. A further £828,801 has been spent this year in Ethiopia under the NGO Co-financing scheme. In 2000, the Government provided £180,000 to Eritrea (£100,00 under the NGO Co-Financing scheme)Top

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