afrol News, 31 October - The US government and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan both have warned Eritrea and Ethiopia they should stay out of the war in Somalia, as evidence accumulates the two foes are heading towards a proxy war in that country. Eritrea supports the Somali Jihadists with arms and troops, while Ethiopia supports the transitional government.
Washington so far has been surprisingly low-profiled in the new Somali war, which should fit neatly into President George Bush's "war against terrorism". US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack yesterday evening however broke the apparent silence, after a confidential UN report had concluded Eritrea had deployed 2,000 troops in Somalia in support of the Islamists.
By now, Mr McCormack said, Washington was having "concerns about outside countries' involvement in Somalia, various troop activities." He in particular referred to reports about "the Eritrean government providing the Islamic Courts weapons" in breach of the UN arms embargo and reports about "Ethiopia having troops in Somalia as well," relating this to the "boundary disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea."
The US spokesman thus warned "states not try to use Somalia as a proxy for any of their disputes. And it would be rather, rather unfortunate for Somalia as well as other countries in the region," Mr McCormack said, adding that Ethiopia and Eritrea must not "escalate the tensions in an already very, very difficult situation in Somalia."
The UN Secretary-General in a speech at Georgetown University in the US last night also did warn of another war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, this time on Somali soil. Describing the impasse as a "classic example of the tragedy" of Africa, Mr Annan said the UN had been unable to persuade the neighbours to cooperate and called for more world attention on the region.
The outgoing UN leader said he feared "another explosion" on the African Horn. In addition to the UN documented build-up of Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in Somalia, Mr Annan warned about the massive Eritrean deployment of troops in the demilitarised and UN-monitored Eritrean-Ethiopian buffer zone. Mr
Annan, as Mr McCormack, lent his hope to the announced Khartoum peace talks between Somalia's warring parties.
While international concerns over an Ethiopian-Eritrean proxy war in Somalia are rising, there are however little more than condemning words reacting to the dangerous situation. US spokesman McCormack said Washington was "in contact with both governments as well as governments in the region" and urging Somali parties to negotiate a peace deal. Mr Annan said the same. Pressure thus remains low on the Horn countries.
Meanwhile, there is little progress in deploying the promised 8,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia, following opposition from the Islamist movement. Ethiopia and the Somali transitional government demand such a deployment, and their US ally strongly supports it. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi today underlined the "need to support" the "legitimate" Somali transitional government.
As Ethiopia waits for AU peacekeepers, the Asmara government in its well-known style on Saturday accused the UN of "defamation" and "pure fabrication" of its report saying there were 2,000 Eritrean troops in Somalia, saying it was part of "a campaign" against Eritrea. "This campaign and continuous lie is a fabrication of the US Administration and not that of the United Nations. The UN is just employed as a cover," the Asmara Ministry of Information said.
Reacting to the warnings by US spokesman McCormack, the same Ministry today condemned Washington's "misleading statements." Asmara claimed that the US government was responsible for the warfare in Somalia. Washington, "under the guise of 'fighting terrorism' through its mercenary agent," the internationally recognised Somali government, was in war with "the Somali people," Eritrea claims.
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