Eritrea said yesterday it would not be drawn into another war of words after neighbouring Djibouti became the latest nation to accuse the Red Sea state of supporting rebels and spreading chaos in the region.
Djibouti said last week Eritrea was arming and training militias to carry out sabotage on its territory and was backing Somali rebels with suspected ties to al Qaeda.
Eritrea has repeatedly denied the accusations.
“We do not wish to be involved in this childish public acrimony,” Eritrea’s Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters in the capital Asmara.
“We are not ready to be engaged in infantile (arguments with Djibouti).”
Relations between the two nations overlooking a vital shipping lane linking Europe to Asia remain hostile.
The neighbours clashed in June last year and a dozen Djiboutian soldiers were killed after Djibouti accused Eritrea of moving troops across its border, something Asmara denies.
Djibouti, a former French colony which separates Eritrea from Somalia, hosts France’s largest military base in Africa and a major US base. Its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy.
The tiny nation is also the main route to the sea for Ethiopia Eritrea’s arch enemy and Washington’s chief regional ally since it lost the ports of Assab and Masawa when Eritrea won its independence in the early 1990s.
The U.N. Security Council called on Eritrea in January to acknowledge its border dispute with Djibouti and participate in diplomatic efforts to resolve it.
Asmara accuses Security Council members of ignoring what it called breaches of international law by Ethiopia, with which it fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70 000 people.
Critics including the UN Security Council, the African Union and the United States have all said that Eritrea has isolated itself, is a danger to security in the Horn of Africa and a destabilising force in both Ethiopia and Somalia.
But Asmara says it has long been the victim of pro-Ethiopian prejudice and unfair meddling by the international community, particularly in its border dispute with Addis Ababa.
Pic: Djibouti troops