Eritrea: South Africa Salutes Eritrea-Ethiopia Agreement

Cape Town, South Africa — South Africa Tuesday congratulated President Issaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia for successfully concluding a peace accord to end a bloody two-year border conflict.

The two neighbours signed the agreement in Algiers Tuesday, ending a border war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and left 1.3 million people as refugees.

Meles and Issaias signed the agreement in the presence of UN and OAU Secretaries- General Kofi Annan and Salim Ahmed Salim, respectively.

The deal was reached under the auspices of the UN and the OAU after months of intense mediation by Algeria, with the participation of the United States and the European Union.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his Togolese and Nigerian counterparts, Gnassingbe Eyadema and Olusegun Obasanjo, respectively, as well as US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, also attended the ceremony in the Palace of Nations in Algiers.

A 4,500-member UN peacekeeping force is due to be deployed from the end of January to ensure that the end of hostilities is respected and to oversee the border demarcation measures.

"This peace accord is in the immediate and long-term interests of both countries, the region and the continent, and demonstrates the commitment of the two leaders and their countries to creating stability and security in the interests of the development of their people," said the South African foreign affairs spokesman Nazeem Mahatey.

"To this end, we pay tribute to President Bouteflika of Algeria whose efforts, in his capacity as former Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), facilitated the conclusion of the accord."

He said the news of the accord is heartening in the context of the ongoing efforts by the OAU in brokering peace on the continent, and especially the progress made with regard to bringing about peace between all the belligerents in the DRC and Burundi Conflicts.

"We believe furthermore that the accord is evidence of the growing capacity and resolve as Africans to find solution to our own problems. We welcome the support given by the international community to these initiatives by Africans to build peace and stability on the continent," Mahatey added.

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