UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged arch-rivals Eritrea and Ethiopia to settle their border dispute peacefully and to take "concrete steps" to demarcate their frontier.
A non-binding statement read out by Indonesia's UN envoy Marty Natalegawa, the council chair this month, pressed the two Horn of Africa neighbors "to take concrete steps to implement immediately and without preconditions the delimitation decision" made by a UN-appointed boundary panel.
It also appealed to the two sides to "refrain from using force and settle their disagreements by peaceful means, to normalize their relations, to promote stability between them and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace in the region."
The 15-member body confirmed the parties' "primary responsibility to resolve the border issue and their other differences, and expresses its readiness to endorse the commitments made by both parties with respect to demarcation and normalization."
Last week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon also expressed serious concern about the military buildup along the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and urged them to break the stalemate in efforts to demarcate the disputed frontier.
In a report, he renewed his call on the countries to show "the utmost restraint" and to pull back their forces and reduce military activities in the border area.
Tension has been growing between the two neighbors which have been at odds since a 1998-2000 bloody border conflict in which some 70,000 died.
In recent weeks, Eritrea has repeatedly accused its bigger and more powerful neighbor of bracing for a new war, a claim dismissed by Addis Ababa as a bid by Asmara to divert attention from its internal woes.
Both sides have been flexing muscles and exchanging increasingly bitter rhetoric ahead of the expected closure of the UN-appointed boundary commission later this month.
The disputed frontier is then to be fixed on maps, with the panel complaining that uncompromising stances on both sides have prevented it from physically demarcating the border on the ground.
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