Qatar ignites tension between Eritrea and Djibouti

A Djiboutian soldier stands behind a heavy machine gun in an undisclosed location along the border with Eritrea, June 15, 2008. (File photo: Reuters)

Djibouti accused neighboring Eritrea on Friday of occupying disputed territory on the border between the two countries after Qatar withdrew peacekeepers.

Qatar mediated between Djibouti and Eritrea to end an armed conflict between them, but Doha withdrew its forces on June 14, days after the two East African countries sided with Saudi Arabia and its allies in their standoff with Qatar, who has been accused of sponsoring terrorism.

Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said Djibouti’s military were “on alert” and that it had lodged complaints with the United Nations and the African Union.

Diplomats at the United Nations have described what Qatar has already done against diplomatic norms and traditions.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, later posted on Twitter: “I told Djibouti’s Ambassador Idris Farah the AUC will send a delegation to Djibouti border to monitor developments, work with all parties.”

Doha’s foreign ministry did not give a reason for the move but it comes as Doha faces a diplomatic crisis.

“Qatari peacekeepers withdrew on June 12 and 13. On the same day, there were Eritrean military movements on the mountain,” Ali Youssouf told Reuters.

“They are now in full control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. This is in breach of the UN Security Council resolution,” he added, referring to areas that the neighbors dispute.

Djibouti, a close Western ally, hosts French and US military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea’s arch foe and Washington’s top regional ally, Ethiopia.

Eritrea has fractious ties with the West, which had previously accused it of backing Somali and other regional insurgents. Asmara denies the charges.

Clashes broke out between the Horn of Africa countries in June 2008 after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the border, raising fears the spat could engulf the region.

The dispute triggered several days of fighting in which a dozen Djiboutian troops died and dozens were wounded. Eritrea had initially denied making any incursions, accusing Djibouti of launching unprovoked attacks.

The UN Security Council requested both sides withdraw, before the neighbors accepted a Qatari request to mediate and deploy peacekeepers.

(With Reuters)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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