Djibouti says Eritrean soldiers occupy disputed area

Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET

Djibouti has lodged a formal complaint with the African Union after accusing soldiers from neighboring Eritrea of occupying a contested mountainous area after Qatari peacekeepers left the region this week, an official said.

The moves threatened to renew a territorial dispute between the two East African nations that Qatar, now caught up in a diplomatic clash with other Arab nations, has helped to mediate.

“The Eritrean troops occupied the Dumeira Mountain immediately after Qatar’s peacekeepers left,” Djibouti’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohammed Idriss Farah, told The Associated Press. “Sometimes the Eritrean troops go to the top of the mountain and return on the other side. What makes this one different is that they moved in right after the peacekeepers left.”

The ambassador said his government was waiting for military confirmation on whether Eritrean forces still controlled the contested area.

A spokesman for the African Union, Ebba Kalondo, confirmed that Djibouti had officially lodged a complaint to the AU Commission.

Qatar said Wednesday it had pulled all of its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border. That came after Eritrea expressed support for the Saudi-led move to isolate Qatar amid a diplomatic dispute.

Qatar has helped to mediate a long-running territorial dispute between the two countries. Eritrea in the past has clashed with both Djibouti and Ethiopia over borders.

Eritrean officials could not be reached immediately for comment. Eritrea’s top diplomat to the African Union on Wednesday said the country wants to solve the problem with Djibouti peacefully.

A spokesman for Eritrea’s biggest armed opposition group, Nasredin Ali, told the AP that Eritrea sent two battalions of troops to control the contested area.

“The Eritreans are now gathering forces at the base of the Dumeira Mountain,” Ali said in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “They have met no resistance from Djibouti’s forces.”

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