After being part of Ethiopia for forty years, the people of Eritrea held a referendum in April 1993 and decided to establish an independent state. The referendum took place in the aftermath of a thirty-year insurgency against two successive Ethiopian regimes waged by the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF). At the same time, an allied insurgent group, the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), took over power in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after the military collapse of the Soviet-supported regime headed by President Mengistu Haile Mariam.
FORMER U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen said he did not say the port belongs to Ethiopia, contrary to what some in Ethiopia had attributed to him, and that he only recommended Ethiopia and Eritrea maintain a common economic union after Eritrea’s independence allowing Ethiopia to use the port.
“There are some people in Ethiopia who said that during the London Conference of 1991 I recommended that the Port of Assab belonged to Ethiopia. This is not correct. What I recommended was Ethiopia and Eritrea maintain a common economic union after Eritrea’s independence and, in that way, Ethiopia could use the Port of Assab,” he said.
FORMER U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen said that before the war of 1998, Ethiopia used a section of the port for their imports and exports, which means that Assab did not belong to Ethiopia, but it had access to an exclusive zone.
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Background Story of 2014: Ethiopia’s Right to Sea, an Article 125 of Geneva Convention
RIGHT OF ACCESS OF LAND-LOCKED STATES TO AND FROM THE SEA AND FREEDOM OF TRANSIT
1. Land-locked States [Ethiopia] shall have the right of access to and from the sea for the purpose of exercising the rights provided for in this Convention including those relating to the freedom of the high seas and the common heritage of mankind. To this end, land-locked States shall enjoy freedom of transit through the territory of transit States [Eritrea] by all means of transport.
2. The terms and modality for exercising freedom of transit shall be agreed between the land-locked States [Ethiopia] and transit States [Eritrea] concerned through bilateral, sub-regional or regional agreements.
3. Transit States [Eritrea], in the exercise of their full sovereignty over their territory, shall have the right to take all measures necessary to ensure that the rights and facilities provided for in this Part for land-locked States [Ethiopia] shall in no way infringe their legitimate interests. tesfa news
Photo: Herman Jay Cohen is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
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