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Mr Cowen, who led an EU Troika delegation to the region, said Eritrea should accept UN-appointed former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, who is trying to break the stalemate between the Horn of Africa neighbours. "We want to see the Ethiopian Government accept the decision of the Boundary Commission, and secondly we also we want to see the special envoy interacting with the Eritrean Government", Mr Cowen said, before travelling to Ethiopia to meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. "We believe that the special envoy has a primary role in facilitating Ethiopia and Eritrea to resolve the current difficulties consistent with the decisions of the Boundary Commission. The EU stands ready to assist in any way that will allow the decision of the Boundary Commission to be implemented."

Ethiopia has rejected the Commission's 2002 ruling on the path of the border, despite agreeing, in a peace accord signed in December 2000, to respect it as "final and binding". The stalemate has led to the indefinite postponement of physical border demarcation. Relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa are virtually non-existent and the border is closed to all but a UN peace-keeping mission. The EU delegation, which also included Dutch Co-operation Minister Agnes Van Ardenne, who said she was disappointed with the failure of the international community to take a firm stand against military and financial assistance to Ethiopia. She said that the EU is striving to convince the Ethiopian Government to abide by the EEBC decision and put pressure on the Ethiopian side to accept the decision to which it is signatory.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year war from 1998 in which 70,000 people were killed in combat reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War One. But the peace process has faltered since Ethiopia rejected the border inquiry's ruling just over a year ago that Badme, the small town that triggered the conflict, belonged to Eritrea. Eritrea says it wants the international community to do more to force neighbouring Ethiopia to comply with an independent panel ruling on the disputed 1,000-kilometre border between them.

Rwanda and Burundi.

Mr Cowen's mission will travel to Rwanda on April 7 to represent the EU at the commemoration ceremonies to mark the tenth anniversary of the genocide there. The UN has officially designated April 7, 2004 as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. "I believe it is important for the European Union to demonstrate its solidarity with the people of Rwanda as they recall the horrific events of ten years ago", he said. "My visit will also provide an opportunity to outline what the European Union is doing to try and ensure such atrocities never happen again." While in Kigali, Mr Cowen will also meet with his Rwandan counterpart, Charles Murigande.

The EU mission will then move to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, for talks on April 8 with President Domitien Ndayizeye, and Foreign Minister, Therence Sinunguriza, on the peace process. "The European Union is actively engaged in the search for peace in Burundi", he said, adding that he would seek information on the ongoing government investigation into the murder of Archbishop Michael Courtney in Burundi last December.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Apr 7, 2004

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