UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is considering stepping up the pressure on Eritrea to avoid a renewal of fighting in the Horn of Africa between Asmara and its neighbor Djibouti, diplomats said on Friday.
Djibouti accused neighboring Eritrea of moving troops across the border in June, triggering several days of fighting that killed a dozen Djiboutian troops and wounded dozens. Eritrea denies making any incursions.
Djibouti, a key U.S. and French ally, also accuses Eritrea of seizing what it says is its territory along the Red Sea.
The president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, told the 15-nation council on Thursday that there could be war if it did not get involved and help resolve its dispute with Eritrea.
Inaction by the council “would not only encourage but would actually reward the attitude of Eritrea,” he said. “This gives my country only one option — the option of war.”
Last month the U.N. Security Council rebuked Eritrea for refusing to cooperate with a U.N. investigation of the June clashes with Djibouti.
Eritrea’s U.N. Ambassador Araya Desta repeated his country’s denials of making any incursion in June and accused Djibouti of launching an unprovoked attacked on Eritrea.
Several diplomats said the council should ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately send a high-level envoy to mediate in the crisis, as recommended in a report on the U.N. probe of the June clashes.
The council would most likely make this request in a strongly worded statement aimed at ratcheting up the pressure on Eritrea to accept international mediation to resolve the crisis, diplomats said.
If Eritrea refuses to accept mediation and conflict breaks out again in the Horn of Africa, then the council could consider imposing sanctions against Asmara, they said.
Djibouti hosts French and U.S. military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea’s arch foe and Washington’s top regional ally, Ethiopia.
The United Nations withdrew a peacekeeping force from the volatile Eritrean-Ethiopian border earlier this year after Asmara cut off fuel supplies to the U.N. troops and personnel. The force had been in place since 2000 after a two-year war between the two countries that killed some 70,000 people.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham