A high military delegation led by the Chief of Staff of the Qatari Army arrived in Djibouti as a part of diplomacy mission to establish peace between Djibouti and Eritrea.
The highest military ranking in Qatar, General Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah met with the president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Gelleh, in an official visit to the country.
The government of Qatar has been conducting mediation between the two countries in attempt to find a definitive solution to the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.
The dispute between the two Horn of Africa states erupted in April 2008 when Eritrean troops raided the disputed border area of Ras Doumeria, which both sides claim. The UN Security Council passed resolution 1907 in last December sanctioning the Eritrean government because of its refusal to withdraw from the border areas it occupied and for its role in assisting the Al Shabab in Somalia.
This breakthrough comes after shuttle diplomacy between the two countries. It seems that Qatari government has succeeded in broking a deal between the two countries. Eritrea has slipped into international isolation after the border dispute and its role in the Somali conflict. Although the details of the agreement are not publicized, it is expected that both side to sign an official agreement in Doha in the next few days.
Djibouti had long refused to hold peace talks with Eritrean government unless the Eritrean forces pulled out of the disputed areas. Ethiopia news agency, Walta, reports that all Eritrean forces have pulled out of the border area and are now stationed a few kilometers away inside the Eritrean borders.
“Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh have signed an agreement, assigning Qatar to mediate a solution to their border dispute,” Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamad bin Al Thani said in a statement carried by state-run QNA news agency. The statement said that Qatar has noted that the Eritrean forces withdrew from the disputed border areas.
However, such move does not signal the country’s recognition of any compromise until a final settlement is reached between the two sides, he added.
In unprecedented move for a Gulf country, the Qatari government will deploy few hundred soldiers between the two countries. Qatari peacekeeper troops led by General Brigadier Khalid Bin Ali Al-Kaabi arrived in Djibouti on Friday in observation mission over the disputed area. The Qatari peacekeepers are reportedly estimated at 700 soldiers.
This is not the first time Qatar played mediator between international foes. In 2008, the tiny rich country broke a landmark peace agreement in Lebanon. Some of Qatar’s recent diplomacy mediation included negotiation with rebels in Yemen and Morocco, help to free Bulgarian nurses in accused of spreading AIDS in Libya, and mediation in Darfur and Southern Sudan. However, Qatar’s previous meditation in the region ended in failure in the region. In April 2008, Ethiopia broke off relations, saying Qatar’s support for Eritrea had made it “a major source of instability in the Horn of Africa.
The Djiboutian government has accused Eritrea of inciting violence in the region and arming Afar rebels in Djibouti. It is not clear why Eritrea invaded Ras Doumeria.
However, local people have always speculated that Eritrea felt left out from a big International development project between Yemeni, Djibouti and Saudi Development Company to build a bridge that connects Asia and Africa. The proposed development is going to take place near the disputed area between Eritrea and Djibouti.
The development project is led by Middle East Development LLC, which headed by Terek Bin Laden, the half brother of Osma Bin Laden. The proposed development will include two industrial and tourism-based new cities built on both sides of the bridge, which will cost around US$20 billion to $30 billion. However, it is not clear where the funding will for this ambitious project.
Pic: Qatar armed forces