Ethiopia, Eritrea accuse each other of starting border fight


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s military was provoked into launching this week’s attack on Eritrean forces in a disputed border area, a government official said Tuesday, but Eritrea accused its neighbor of military aggression.

Eritrean forces fired into Ethiopian positions Sunday, leading to a counter-offensive by Ethiopian troops, Ethiopia government spokesman Getachew Reda told reporters.

There was a “major military engagement” between Eritrean and Ethiopian forces that lasted until Monday, he said.

“I hope this time around they won’t make that stupid mistake of inviting us to wage a full-scale war,” Reda said.

He did not provide details about casualties, but Eritrea’s Information Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the Ethiopians were repulsed with “heavy casualties.” That statement accused Ethiopia of “military aggression” against Eritrea.

Eritrea charged on Sunday that Ethiopian troops had attacked its position in the Tsorona Central Front, a border area between the two countries that saw one of the bloodiest battles during their 1998-2000 border war.

It is not possible for The Associated Press to independently verify the allegations.

“The latest incident has indicated that minor incidents in the two countries’ border areas can easily escalate into a full-scale war,” said Seyoum Teshome, a lecturer at Ethiopia’s Ambo University.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have no diplomatic relations and often accuse each other of supporting opposition groups across the border.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has urged both countries to exercise restraint.