Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ethiopia: Eritrea ruled by trigger-happy government

Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi

Ethiopia says it is vindicated after an international commission ordered neighboring Eritrea to pay about $10 million as compensation for the destruction in both countries during a two-year war.

The Hague-based commission awarded Eritrea about 161 million dollars, while Ethiopia received 174 million dollars.

Eritrea accepted the ruling, but Ethiopia complained, describing the amount as too small.

The awards, announced Tuesday, concluded a complex arbitration that was part of the 2000 peace agreement closing out a border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea that left tens of thousands dead.

Ethiopia's communications minister Bereket Simon told VOA that his government is pleased the commission blamed Eritrea for instigating the war.

"Once again this is a vindication of Ethiopia because the commission in their previous ruling had obviously ruled that Eritrea has been the one who had caused the war and caused harm to Ethiopia,"Simon said.

He said Eritrea was ordered to pay the money after the commission faulted Asamara for being the aggressor.

"Eritrea has to pay certain amount of money because of the damage that it had inflicted upon Ethiopia," he said.

Simon reiterated that Addis Ababa is not pleased with the amount of money Eritrea was ordered to pay.

"Ethiopia believes the fines against Eritrea were lesser than what we expected. Nevertheless, this is another vindication of Ethiopia's position," Simons aid.

He said Eritrea embraced the ruling because it started the war.

"Of course Eritrea must be happy because this cannot be equivalent to what it has brought in terms of damage to (Ethiopia)," he said.

Simon accused Asamara of warmongering.

"Eritrea is ruled by a government, which is trigger-happy. I think this ruling is much lesser than what it should have been under normal conditions," Simon said.

Ethiopia had sought more than $14 billion for damages, but the commission rejected the claim.

Simon said the damage caused by Eritrea is real for all to see.

"It is true that Ethiopia has claimed a lot of damage and this was not a (manufactured) figure, it is a real damage Eritrea has inflicted on us," Simon said.

The war between Eritrea and Ethiopia took place from May 1998 to June 2000. Both countries spent hundreds of millions of dollars and suffered tens of thousands of casualties as a direct consequence of the conflict, which resulted in minor border changes.

But a Hague-based international commission ruled that Eritrea broke international law by invading Ethiopia and subsequently the war.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
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