Ethiopia opposition vows better Eritrea ties


Ethiopia opposition vows better Eritrea ties

The leader of the opposition Ethiopian Democratic Party said that bringing relations between his country and Eritrea back on track would be a top priority for his party if it won the elections.

World Bulletin / News Desk
Ethiopia's opposition has vowed to normalize relations with neighboring Eritrea and set a new foreign policy course if it won the upcoming parliamentary polls, slated for next week.

"We want the two countries to return to their historical unity," Chanie Kebede Mamaye, the leader of the opposition Ethiopian Democratic Party, told.

"We want a policy that brings the two peoples together," he said.

Ethiopia is set to hold its fifth parliamentary elections on May 24.

Fifty-eight political parties will be contesting 547 seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives. The same parties will also contest regional council seats.

Chanie said that bringing relations between his country and Eritrea back on track would be a top priority for his party if it won the elections.

Eritrea and Ethiopia used to be a single country, but a 1993 referendum saw Eritreans vote for independence.

Chanie believes that the two countries should settle the issue of Badme, a region on their joint border, that has been at the heart of their conflicts since 1998.

"The decision passed by the international boundary commission should be replaced by a whole new international arbitration process," he said, without elaboration.

For his part, Yonatan Tesfaye, spokesman for the opposition Semayawi Party, said his party advocated peace with Eritrea.

"The no-peace-no-war situation…is very dangerous," he said, noting that the party is keen on seeing a "confederation-type association" between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

"The actual disagreement is between the incumbent governments of the two countries, not between their peoples," he noted. "The peoples of both countries have close historical and cultural ties."

Yonatan went on to say that tensions between the two nations could usher in a permanent war economy.
Leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Tigstu Awelu, agreed.

He expressed fears that potential border disputes would force the two countries to increase their military spending.

"This situation would certainly hurt poor Ethiopia," Tigstu told Anadolu Agency.

"We will diligently work to restore peaceful relations with Eritrea and end problems brought about by the cold war," he added.

-Nile row-

Chane, however, applauded improving relations between Ethiopia and Egypt, especially when it came to the two countries' Nile water relations.

"This was a result of good diplomacy by the leaders of both countries," Chane said.

"The power alignment also changed making the unilateral use of a common resource a thing of the past," he added.

Chane said his party appreciated what he described as the "visionary stand" demonstrated by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who parted with the past and came aboard the venue of win-win diplomacy.

"The recently signed Declaration of Principles should be followed by more robust, tangible agreements concerning the use of the Nile," Chane said.

Tigistu, on his part, said the foreign policy the ruling party has been advocating is based on desire to lengthen its political life span.

"Basically, relations with neighboring countries is limited to the government-to- government level," Tigistu said.

"Although government-level cooperation remains valid we focus on people-to-people relations," he added.
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