Nairobi — The African Union on Saturday urged “restraint” as tensions intensified between Djibouti and Eritrea over a disputed border territory after the withdrawal of Qatari peacekeepers from a buffer zone.
Djibouti has accused Eritrea of occupying territory following the departure of the Qatari troops, threatening the revival of a long-standing, sometimes violent dispute.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for “calm, restraint” and said the body would send a “fact-finding mission to the Djibouti-Eritrea border.”
Qatar withdrew its troops after Djibouti reduced its diplomatic status with Qatar and Eritrea cut diplomatic ties with Doha in line with many other countries because of Qatar’s support for terror groups.
Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf on Thursday accused Eritrea of “moving its forces” into the Doumeira region where Qatari peacekeepers had been stationed since 2010 as a buffer between the two nations’ armies.
“Djibouti is a peaceful country and we have prioritized diplomatic solutions, but if Eritrea insists in seeking military solutions, Djibouti is ready for that,” Youssouf said in a press conference broadcast on local television.
Djibouti is a strategic ally of world powers, hosting French and US military bases with a Chinese one under construction, while Eritrea is widely regarded as a pariah state.
Djibouti’s large port is also a conduit for imports to and exports from Ethiopia, Eritrea’s bitter enemy.
The AU said it was “ready to assist Djibouti and Eritrea to normalize their relations and promote good neighborliness within the framework of relevant AU instruments.” — AFP