Djibouti asks Iran to mediate in talks with Eritrea

November 5, 2008

TEHRAN – Djibouti Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed has asked Iran to help mediate in the talks between Eritrea and Djibouti aimed at ending border conflicts between the Horn of Africa nations.

Osman made the remarks in a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki in Tehran on Tuesday.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 1998-2000 war over their frontier, and tensions between the two nations remain high. The fighting along the Djibouti-Eritrea border broke out in the Mount Gabla area, also known as Ras Doumeira, which straddles the Bab al-Mandib straits.
During the press conference, Mottaki said Iran is prepared to help resolve the prolonged conflict.
Djibouti hosts French and U.S. military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea's arch-foe Ethiopia. Africa’s youngest nation, Eritrea has fractious ties with the West, which accuses it of backing Somali insurgents and impeding UN peacekeepers on the Ethiopia border.
Djibouti says the fighting began after Eritrean soldiers fired on some deserters, prompting Djibouti to return fire.
Analysts say Eritrean-Ethiopian hostility is fuelling the spat.
Latest clashes between the two countries killed at least nine people and wounded 60 others.
“The policy of looking to Africa is atop Iran’s foreign policy agenda. This policy requires Iran to deepen ties with African countries,” Mottaki noted.
He said the ground is fertile for further cooperation between Tehran and Djibouti in the fisheries, health, trade, and energy sectors.
Osman also expressed satisfaction over the friendly relations between Djibouti and Iran. He expressed hope that his visit will pave the way for further expansion of bilateral ties