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Eritrea Not To Retaliate Against Ethiopian Attack

3/16/2012 7:48 PM ET

Eritrea said Friday that it will not respond to the recent cross-border raid by Ethiopian forces and accused Ethiopia of using the attack to divert international attention from the unresolved border dispute between the two neighboring nations.

Eritrea "shall not entertain and will not be entrapped by such deceitful ploys that are aimed at derailing and eclipsing the underlying fundamental issues," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement posted on the state-owned Shabait website on Friday.

"The objective of the attack ... is to divert attention from the central issue of the regime's flagrant violation of international law and illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories," the statement added.

Meanwhile, some unconfirmed media reports indicated that Eritrea's Foreign Minister Osman Saleh has written to the UN Security Council to complain about the Ethiopian cross-border raid. Osman is said to have urged the UNSC to take action against Ethiopia over the recent attack.

The Eritrean response came a day after Ethiopia launched a cross-border attack on three military camps located about 10 miles inside Eritrean territory. Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said the targeted military posts were being used by "subversive groups organized, supported, financed and trained by the Eritrean government,"

Kemal said 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.

Ethiopia blamed militants armed and trained by the Eritrean government for the attack 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.

by RTT Staff Writer

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