6 April 2018

Ethiopia: Why Asmara Puts Algiers Agreement in Face of Ethiopia's Call for Talks

Following FDRE Prime Minister's call on Eritrea to reciprocate to Addis Ababa's readiness to engage in peace talks and resume bilateral relations, Eritrea has once again put the Algiers Agreement as a precondition for any breakthrough.

The question then is why does Asmara put the Agreement in the face of repeated calls for peace while Addis Ababa remains committed to the accord?

Eritrea's response came soon after Dr. Abiy Ahmed's official invitation for talks to resume diplomatic ties with Eritrea in his acceptance speech to Parliament that reaffirmed Ethiopia's commitment for peace talks.

Ethiopia since long has been committed to the Algiers agreement while it equally believes that there have been basic issues that should be tabled for discussion, says Dr. Belete Belachew, Researcher at Center for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation.

"It is not Algiers that is hindering any possible peace talks; it is rather Asmara's tendency to use its conflicts with Ethiopia for political gains. Consequently shuttering down hopes of reconciliation," he adds.

There must be similar stance and compromise from the Eritrean side as well. Unfortunately, According to Dr. Belete, Eritrean government is manipulating its border conflict with Ethiopia for own political gains. It has been wrongfully using it to quell internal political dissidents and other socioeconomic challenges.

"Former Ethiopian prime ministers had been insisting on peaceful dialogue and consultation, but their calls did not bear fruits. The new Premier's call, though appears more inviting in approach, is continuation of Ethiopia's repeated acts of readiness towards renewing friendship with Asmara, but the regime in Eritrea was nothing but a stumbling block."

The very problem for Eritrea to reestablish friendly relation with Ethiopia stems for Asmara regime's hawkish behavior and its inclination to use its conflict with neighbors as a 'means of survival,' so claims Dr. Belete.

Seconding Dr. Belet's comment, Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institutes Deputy Executive Director Mogos Tekelemichael says that Asmara cannot use the Algiers accord as a pretext.

The Algiers Agreement applies to both countries. One cannot abide by it while the other side is violating it. Eritrea cannot insist on implementation of one component of the Algiers agreement while violating its other component, he adds.

"Eritrea has to respect the agreement in its totality otherwise for Asmara to question Ethiopia's commitment is nothing but a double standard."

Mogos believes that it proves hard to end the two counters' stalemate when the Asmara regime's intention is to bury its head on the Algiers Agreement, there are complex underlying reasons that cannot simply be resolved through 'peace talks'.

There are many more opportunities that both countries may use to renew their friendship, Algiers might have been a point of discussion, but the other aspects of the people to people relation are more than good enough to reestablish ties, Assistant Prof. Dr. Tafese Olika Political Science scholar at Addis Ababa University (AAU) .

The Asmara regime has been stubborn to the extent of undermining Ethiopia's relentless attempts to resume friendship particularly in the people to people spheres. While calling for dialogue is an important step for Ethiopian side, it will less likely to come to fruition unless Eritrea becomes more receptive to the call.

"There are no viable alternatives to break the deadlock unless the Eritrean government boldly expresses its readiness for peaceful negotiation and genuine discussion," states Dr. Belete.

It is premature to tell how Ethiopia's policy would shape Eritrea position as there is no clear policy from Asmara. Otherwise it behooves policy change form Ethiopian side, as to Dr. Belete says adding, it is true that Ethiopia is pushing for creating positive environment for dialogue within the very limited means available.

"It is sad if not upsetting that the two countries have long been in deadlock. No people could be more attached and friends in the Horn. It takes a lot of give and take though sitting in the negotiating table comes first though. It needs more action to bring the stalemate to an end. The people to people relation is exceptional and unique in terms of cultural and linguistic values," says Dr. Tafese for his part.

It calls for revision of policy as the political dynamics brooks no delay including putting feasible strategy that will bring visible change on the ground. Reestablishing friendly relations benefits Eritrea as much as it does to Ethiopia. It also depends on how serious the Eritrean government could be to peaceful settlement of differences. There are many fertile grounds to renew amicable ties between both countries.

Peaceful relation between the two countries means an add up to the Horn stability and security. It is both the people that has lost so much in the diplomatic row and would make best out of it, if the countries break the deadlock.

It is in the interest of both to normalize relation. Ethiopia is more committed for amicable ties as it strives to horn peace and stability. But Eritrea's foreign relations have not been in tandem with other countries of the region.

The 'no peace and no war' situation has not been advantageous to Ethiopia, particularly for its people living along the border between the two countries. There must be a change, underscores Moges.

The scholars agree that Ethio-Eritrea's relation is more than border issue. Hence, both countries need to resort to other opportunities such as the age long people to people and cultural ties to break the deadlock.

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