It’s Not Up To Frazer Or Bolton

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[African News Update: Comment]


Re: "Frazer Vs. Bolton: Someone’s Lying," by Sophia Tesfamariam, 
December 16th, 2007.

In matters pertaining to the border issue between Eritrea and Ethiopia, there is no answer that would satisfy all sides as to who is lying, Fazer or Bolton, because it is a clear case of “he said, she said.”

In the absence of full evidence in such instances, Frazer gets the benefit of the doubt for she is ranked higher and is a permanent member of the policy-making team of the State Department, whose policy in this matter has always been that the delimitation decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission of April 13, 2002 is final and binding. Bolton enjoyed interim appointment as US ambassador to the UN for only one year.

In a briefing before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's travel to Ethiopia, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer responded to questions pertaining to Eritrea too. Following is an excerpt of the briefing: 

Question: Can I just ask one more very briefly on the Boundary Commission thing? Former Ambassador Bolton has written in his book that you in February of 2006 told him that you wanted to reopen the Boundary Commission's 2002 decision and to give the area or parts of the area around –inaudible- to award that which had been already granted to Eritrea to Ethiopia. Is that correct?

Assistant Secretary Frazer: No. Thank you for asking the question. I actually haven't read the book, so I am surprised that I even feature in it. But I can assure you unequivocally that I've never advocated for reopening the boundary decision, the EEBC decision on the -- you know, the land, the delimitation line. In fact, we've been very clear that we accept the delimitation line. The issue was how do you move from delimitation to demarcation. And I've always advocated that that has to involve dialogue between the countries because, clearly, territory that was Eritrea's has been given to Ethiopia, territory that's Ethiopian has been given to Eritrea. That's what drawing straight lines typically does. And so not to reopen the decision, but rather to have a dialogue about the demarcation, including options of open borders so that the people on the borders can move back and forth. And that really is, I think, just a matter of how do you implement the decision, not reopening or questioning decisions. So I could say without—unequivocally that I've never advocated for changing the delimitation decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.
The crux of the matter contained in Frazer’s interview with VOA on Feb 1, 2006 is her statement: “For example, if the delimitation line separates a person's house from their farm, one has to adjust the line or compensate the farmer; and so that is the just and reasonable aspect. And so that requires some dialogue.” Here, Frazer ponders two options: adjust the line or compensate. To read and interpret Frazer’s remarks as limited to only one option, adjusting the line, therefore, has no validity beyond wild and wishful speculations of charlatan politicians and political analysts.

Adjusting the line is an absolute no-no not only because it wouldn’t be consistent with expressed and firm US policy of adhering to the final and binding nature of the line but also because it would constitute a blatant violation of the Algiers Peace Agreement. 

Though the delimitation line is final and binding, the Boundary Commission has said that it does not preclude minor changes but ruled out significant changes during the demarcation process. Moreover, the Boundary Commission has also stated that it has no problem varying the delimitation line should both parties so desire and empower the commission to do so.

In line with that, it is neither wrong nor would it violate the Algiers Agreement for General George Fulford to seek the advice of Eritrea’s Legal Council for “operational latitude to shift the boundary by about 1 Km.” It is up to Eritrea and Eritrea has every right to decline or grant such request without any consequences of any sort.

That Frazer was accompanied by Fulford whom she wanted to suggest to the EEBC as a "technical facilitator" and her attempt to sell his expertise by presenting "satellite technology” map does not violate the Algiers Agreement either. Article 4 (7) of the Algiers Agreement clearly states “The UN Cartographer shall serve as Secretary to the Commission and undertake such tasks as assigned to him by the Commission, making use of the technical expertise of the UN Cartographic Unit. The Commission may also engage the services of additional experts as it deems necessary.”  Here again, it is up to the EEBC to decline or grant Frazer’s request without any consequences.

Finally, there is equally nothing wrong with Frazer’s remark in an interview with the VOA on November 22, 2007: “That border needs to be demarcated and that demarcation is going to require dialogue between the two, so diplomacy and dialogue are necessary."  As a matter of fact, the Boundary Commission has a mechanism in place where the two parties could be engaged in dialogue during the demarcation process. Ethiopia has indeed refused to be part of this mechanism.

Hence, Frazer’s call for dialogue during the actual demarcation process is valid and worth reiterating even if Ethiopia is balking.

Frazer and Bolton can say all they want. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia can be demarcated as decided only and only in accordance with and strict adherence to the Algiers agreement not based on whose remarks are right or wrong.

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