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23 October 2008 - Djibouti /Eritrea - Intervention of Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Ambassador

Security Council

FRANCE


PUBLIC MEETING OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL "PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFRICA"

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Mr. President of the Security Council,

Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Djibouti,

Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. President,

I welcome the attendance of the President of Djibouti, Mr. Ismail Omar Guelleh, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Permanent Eritrean Representative. The French delegation listened to their presentations with great interest.

Mr. President, the conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea has now begun to ease. The situation remains tense, but calm on the border between these two countries; they are no longer fighting on the Doumeira promontory or Doumeira Island, and the armed forces of both countries are no longer in contact with each other. This development is to Djibouti’s credit, which, in accordance with the Security Council’s presidential declaration of 12 June past, withdrew its troops to the position of the status quo ante, thus ensuring that both armies would no longer be in contact.

However, the Security Council must not lose sight of the most important issue: deadly fighting, for which Eritrea is responsible, took place in Doumeira in June and the effects of this aggression have lingered. In its presidential declaration of 12 June, the Security Council unequivocally condemned Eritrea. The report of the UN fact-finding mission established that, unlike Djibouti, Eritrea had not pulled its troops back to the statu quo ante positions. Therefore, the first urgent matter at hand is for Eritrea to meet the extremely clear request that the Security Council made of it.

*

Mr. President, resolving this crisis presupposes that both parties settle the border demarcation dispute. This is a complex matter, especially since the agreements governing the border date from a time when neither of these parties existed as sovereign States. The border issue had never been addressed and the uncertainty it caused led to hostilities between Eritrea and Djibouti twice in the 1990s.

It is both parties’ responsibility to determine the framework in which they will iron out their differences. As the reference agreements include an 1897 Franco-Ethiopian convention and two Franco-Italian protocols from 1900 and 1901, France, like other countries, has offered its expertise on several occasions in order to resolve this crisis.

This, however, presupposes the two parties are engaged in dialogue, which for the time being is not the case. At this stage, the Eritrean authorities have so far refused all proposals for dialogue that have been made to them: Eritrea has denied visas to the UN fact-finding mission and has refused to host missions of this kind proposed by Arab League and the African Union, despite appeals from President of the Security Council to facilitate the UN fact-finding mission. In addition, Eritrea has not responded favourably to the good offices of the Secretary-General, or to the diverse proposals for dialogue on this issue made by multilateral organizations or UN Member States.

Mr. President, the second urgent matter at hand is that the Eritrean authorities must acknowledge that there is crisis in Doumeira and must be willing to enter into discussions on this issue.

The visit of the President of the African Union Commission to Asmara this past Friday is a hopeful sign that Eritrea is finally going to resume dialogue with the international community. France would like to thank Mr. Ping for his efforts and encourage the African Union to continue down this path so that a genuine communications channel is created, which will facilitate dialogue on the crisis between Djibouti and Eritrea.

France is also convinced that the United Nations Secretary-General has a very positive role to play and would like him to formalize his offer of help and send a team on-site.

* Mr. President, France believes that the continuation of this crisis, as well as Eritrea’s refusal to engage in any dialogue, represent a serious threat to Djibouti and to the region as a whole. Djibouti and France have forged long-standing, cooperative, friendly and trusting relations. Given this context, France intends to uphold in full its commitments that bind it to Djibouti.

Mr. President, the parties can only resolve their border dispute through dialogue. Consequently, it would not be acceptable if one of the parties, in this case Eritrea, were to prolong this crisis indefinitely, as it is extremely dangerous for both Djibouti and for the entire Horn of Africa. This region, which has already been ravaged by war and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia, has had its fair share of conflicts. Furthermore, France emphasizes that no precondition can be laid down for settling the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.

France calls for the Council to soon reconsider this issue.

Against this backdrop, my delegation suggests rapidly initiating bilateral consultations in order to submit a draft text to the Security Council when appropriate. This would entail firmly reiterating what the Council requires of Eritrea, condemning the country if it continues to refuse all dialogue on this issue and encouraging the efforts of the President of the African Union Commission and those of the United Nations Secretary-General. These demands should include a clear time line.

It is our Council’s responsibility to follow this issue closely. Thank you./.



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