By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 3, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - The US government has issued new Eritrean travel advice, cautioning its citizens to be aware of the risks.
In a renewed alert issued on 29 November, the US state department recommended US citizens avoid all types of travel to Eritrea due to security incidents, including attacks near the border with Ethiopia.
The travel advice cautioned all US nationals to avoid visiting the Ethiopia-Eritrean border due to security threats.
The document recalled an incident in January 2012 in which five foreign tourists were killed and others abducted by allegedly Eritrea-backed Ethiopian rebels in the Erta-Ale volcano in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia, a few kilometres from the Eritrean border.
“The US Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea and strongly recommends U.S. citizens defer all travel to the country,” states the release.
It also recommends against any travel in Eritrean waters due to the regime’s repeated “illegal detention of vessels.”
Eritrea generally requires ten days notice before awarding permission for foreign visitors to travel outside the capital, Asmara and “as a result, the U.S. Embassy is extremely limited in its ability to provide emergency consular assistance outside of Asmara”.
The US state department added crimes in Asmara are on rise due to worsening economic conditions.
It further alleged that the Eritrean government has arrested a number of Eritrean-US dual citizens and many of them are “currently being held without apparent cause”.
The latest Eritrean travel warning replaces the one issued on 18 April, when the US then urged visitors to avoid unnecessary travel to the nation.
It also warned citizens against travel to the Eritrea-Ethiopia border areas as well as the border with Djibouti.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year bloody war over their disputed border during 1998-2000, costing the lives of over 70,000 people.
With their border dispute yet unsettled, tensions between the two neighbours remain tense particularly after the Ethiopian Army recently carried out cross-border attack on military camps inside Eritrea; Addis Ababa’s first military incursion since the war ended.
South Sudan hopes to mediate in talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
"We will embark on rounds of shuttle diplomacy between the two countries. We are hoping to start in November," South Sudan’s minister for cabinet affairs, Deng Alor, said in October.