The African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, has appealed to Ethiopia and Eritrea to ‘de-escalate’ a looming war situation following recent confrontations over a common border.
‘‘We urgently appeal to sister countries #Ethiopia & #Eritrea to de-escalate the situation along their common border,’‘ Chergui tweeted at a BBC Africa report citing attacks by Eritrea on Ethiopian forces.
Ethiopia on Tuesday accused Eritrea of provoking the attack on a disputed border area. The two countries have accused each other of triggering the attack over the weekend.
“We have the ability to lead a total war against Eritrea, but we do not want to,” spokesperson of the Ethiopian government, Getachew Reda, told reporters in Addis Ababa.
“A war will depend on the attitude of Asmara,” adding that “I hope they will not repeat the error to lead us into an open war.”
The Eritrean Minister of Information has in turn denounced “the last act of military aggression” of Ethiopia, and claimed to have repulsed the assault which he says caused “heavy losses” in the Ethiopian ranks.
According to Reda, the Ethiopian military said they want to end a series of provocations along the disputed border between the two countries.
“The last shots of Eritrea (border) were the final straw. We do not think they were expecting such a response from us,” said Reda.
“We believe the measure that we took the last two days will send sufficiently clear message to the regime. The extent of the damage they have suffered will hopefully make them think twice.” he added.
Getachew Reda did not give details on the number of casualties but warned of retaliating should Eritrea embark of what he called a “reckless move”.
“We hope and expect them to behave normally and to realize that there is always a heavy price to paid for such kind of reckless moves,” Reda added
The Ethiopian forces are said to have already “achieved their mission” and returned to their barracks within Ethiopian border.
Witnesses quoted by local media spoke of heavy artillery fighting and armored movements during the incident.
“Whether the Eritrean regime will next decide to regroup and try to do something stupid that is ultimately their choice but that will have grim consequences,” Reda warned.
He said that operations had ceased Monday midday.
The two countries were at war over the disputed border from 1998 to 2000. Since the peace accords signed in 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea forces keep monitoring the heavily fortified border.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after three decades of war.