Ethiopia: “Talking, not shooting is the only choice for Eritrea”

A day after the Ethiopian National Defense Forces(ENDF) raided three terrorist bases inside Eritrea, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that “Talking, not shooting is the only choice for Eritrea” in its weekly press release.

Here is the full text:

Talking, not shooting is the only choice for Eritrea

Early yesterday morning, March 15th, units of the Ethiopian Defense forces attacked military targets 18 kilometers inside Eritrea. The targets were three military camps where the Eritrean government has been training and arming terrorist and subversive groups, including the one which recently attacked, killed and abducted European tourists in the Afar Regional State. The Ethiopian military units returned safely after successfully carrying out this limited military measure intended to safeguard security along Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea. This was a careful, calculated and proportional response to the continued destabilizing activities being carried out by Eritrea and specifically a response to the recent attack against innocent tourists in the Afar region. It is a message to the Eritrean regime that none of its aggressive activities will remain unanswered. Ethiopia believes this response will convey a very clear message to the Eritrean government that violation of its borders cannot continue indefinitely. 

Already, it’s far from clear that the regime in Asmara has the stomach for learning lessons. In a statement yesterday, the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs resorted to its usual exercise of externalizing responsibility. Its statement stopped short of fully acknowledging the operations though interestingly it claimed they were no surprise since, according to the Ministry, “Ethiopia had long succeeded with the support of its superpower handlers to deny Eritrea its capability to defend itself through sanctions.” It isn’t entirely clear if the statement was trying to explain away the failure of Eritrean forces in their attempt to respond to yesterday’s operation, but more interestingly, it suggests the regime still appears to believe it takes a coalition of superpowers to make it change its mind about resorting to adventurism as the means to promote its interests. 

Eritrea’s Information Minister went beyond this to call Ethiopia’s claim a deliberate ploy to deflect the international community’s attention from internal problems. This, of course, is one of Eritrea’s more frequent mantras. However, more unexpected is the fact that even the usually more fiery of the regime’s officials have not been as assertive or as keen to indulge in sabre-rattling as usual. Indeed, according to him, Asmara is resisting being “dragged into this acrimony and provocation.” This is surprising coming in the wake of a successful Ethiopian operation against Eritrean forces. To make up for this apparent lack of bravado, Minister Ali did however, if somewhat cautiously, suggest Asmara was considering its next line of options. He said that Eritrea was well aware of the price of war having fought for its independence for 30 years and would therefore not be dragged into conflict again. He has apparently already forgotten that Eritrea only a decade ago launched an unnecessary and futile invasion of Ethiopia which cost at least 20,000 Eritrean lives.  In this context, the regime would be well advised to come to terms with the fact that it does not have either the wherewithal or the intent to engage in any full-scale campaign against Ethiopia. Now it is clear that even its incessant destabilizing activities will not remain unanswered in the future, it would be wise for the leaders of Eritrea to moderate their obstinacy and to give dialogue a chance.

If indeed the real problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia is, as the Eritrean regime claims, the unresolved border dispute between the two countries, even though it is basically a non-issue, then the only way out of the dilemma is talking and not shooting. And indeed, the latter choice has long since ceased to be any choice for Asmara. Ethiopia firmly believes that disputes between two neighboring countries can and should only be solved by peaceful means. Based on this principled position, Ethiopia has repeatedly expressed its firm desire to engage in dialogue and negotiations with the Eritrean government. Despite these numerous efforts to reach a peaceful and negotiated settlement, the Eritrean government has chosen to continue with belligerent attacks on civilians and infrastructural targets through its surrogate terrorist groups. Given its consistent and steadfast adherence to this peaceful approach, it is dismaying that Eritrea has continued to escalate its activities as demonstrated by the recent killings and abduction of tourists inside Ethiopia. It is this that has meant Ethiopia must reserve its right to take retaliatory measures against Eritrea’s violence. Nevertheless, the Ethiopian Government still upholds its determination that the problems between Eritrea and Ethiopia can only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue.

Source: A Week in the Horn – March 16, 2012 issue


Check the Eritrea archive or the Eritrean terrorism archive for previous and forthcoming posts.

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