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Qatar to mediate between Djibouti and Eritrea on border dispute

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June 8, 2010 (DOHA) – Eritrea and Djibouti have accepted a Qatari offer to mediate between the two countries in abide to resolve the border conflict between the two Horn of Africa countries.

The Qatari mediation, announced Monday, provides for the formation of a committee, headed by the Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani and including two Eritrean and Djiboutian members.

The panel is empowered to appoint an international firm to demarcate the border, with the consent of the two parties.

Dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea began in June 2008 when Eritrean soldiers penetrated in the neighboring small territory opening fire on Eritrean deserters. The disputed area includes a hill called Gabla, or Ras Doumeira, and a small island called Doumeira, deserted except for the occasional fishermen who use it as a pit stop.

John Donaldson, a research associate at the International Boundaries Research Unit, a British institute that studies border disputes, told The New York Times that the colonial power France and Italy did not define the border between the two countries but just had agreed in 1901 that no third country could rule the Doumeira area and that specific border issues would be dealt with later.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told the official news QNA that Eritrea troops have already pulled out from the disputed border zones. He further added that Qatari observers verified the withdrawal.

The Qatari observation force is tasked with monitoring the border between the two countries "until the conclusion of a final agreement on settling the conflict," QNA said.

State minister for foreign affairs Ali Karti announced last May that Djibouti and Eritrea had accepted a Sudanese initiative to settle the border dispute between the two countries. He further said that Khartoum would proceed to arbitrate after the swearing-in ceremony of the Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir and the formation of a new government.

The small Gulf country of Qatar has good links with Eritrea and Djibouti. Doha has offered to mediate in various conflicts, including internal strife in Sudan, Yemen and Lebanon.

(ST)

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