By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
March 17, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – Eritrea on Friday said that it won’t engage in retaliation for Ethiopia’s cross-border attacks against rebel groups based in Red Sea nation on Thursday, easing the fears of a return to war between the two east African neighbours.
However, Asmara accused the US being behind Ethiopia’s “provocative moves”.
The Ethiopian military on Thursday carried out cross-border attacks against three Afar rebel bases inside Eritrea where Addis Ababa alleges its arch-rival trains subversive groups, including separatist group the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) who killed five western tourists in an ambush last January in the Afar region near the Eritrean border.
The latest attack - Ethiopia’s first official military incursion to Eritrea since the end of the 1998-2000 border - further escalated long-standing tensions and raised fears of a potential return to full-scale war between Addis Ababa and its former province.
Following Thursday’s cross-border raids, Ethiopian officials said the attack is only the beginning and vowed to continue until, what they described as, Eritrea’s growing activities to destabilise Ethiopia comes to end.
However, Ethiopia said the latest measure doesn’t "constitute a direct military confrontation between armies".
In a statement, the Eritrean foreign ministry said country will not be sucked into renewed conflict over the attack by its larger neighbour in south.
"The people and government of Eritrea shall not entertain, and will not be entrapped by, such deceitful ploys aimed at derailing and eclipsing the underlying fundamental issues" it said.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 1998-2000 war over their disputed boundary that has cost the lives of estimated 70,000 people. The Hague-based Boundary Commission 2002 ruling gave away the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea, however, Ethiopia has refused to accept the decision.
The statement further said the Ethiopia’s attack was meant to divert attentions of "illegal occupation" of Eritrean territory, and also from “internal issues”.
The US government has called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to exercise restraint and resolve their differences peacefully.
Speaking to BBC, Eritrean Information Minister, Ali Abdu, accused the United States of being behind the Ethiopian attack.
"Not only this attack, but the destabilization of our region is also instigated and compounded by the US," he said.
The government in Asmara has called on the UN to intervene over the recent attacks.
Eritrea is facing potential UN sanctions, over accusations that Asmara is arming, training and financing Al-Qaida allied al-Shabab militants in Somalia. Asmara denies the allegations.