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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 22, 1999


The United States remains deeply concerned about the risk of armed conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and strongly committed to help find a peaceful resolution to their border dispute.

As part of this effort, I asked former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake to return to Eritrea and Ethiopia during the last week. This was his fourth visit since October. During his visit, Mr. Lake met with Organization of African Unity (OAU) Secretary Salim Ahmed Salim, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

In their meetings with Mr. Lake, the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia reaffirmed their engagement with the OAU's peace process, which the United States strongly supports. In this context, the United States urges both parties to accept the OAU's Framework Agreement and its agreed implementation in order to achieve a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Ethiopia has accepted the OAU Framework, and Eritrea awaits certain clarifications from the OAU.

The United States remains deeply concerned, however, about the continuing military build-up along the common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and about the implications of this build-up for renewed hostilities. We call on both parties to exercise reason and restraint and to maintain their commitment to the peaceful solution that we are convinced is within reach.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have made remarkable strides in the last few years in overcoming a past of repression, famine and war. Both nations have promising futures. Both are good friends of the United States. We ask them not to risk what they have gained in a conflict that cannot possibly benefit the people of either side. We pledge our own best efforts, in partnership with Ethiopia and Eritrea, to avert a tragedy and to advance the interests that continue to unite the people of both nations.