Ethiopia today denied reports from the ‘Indian Ocean Newsletter’ last week that its troops were deployed inside Djiboutian territory. Ethiopian government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse told IRIN on Monday that Djibouti was “capable of defending itself”. Relations between Djibouti and Eritrea soured rapidly last month with Eritrea accusing Djibouti of supporting the Ethiopian military effort. Djibouti, in a letter to the UN Security Council, said that the allegations were “sheer nonsense”, and that Djibouti was “Ethiopia’s natural port”.
The letter, dated 20 November, alleges “visible signs” of an Eritrean military buildup on the Djibouti-Eritrea border, mentions “sketchy” information about an “incursion” and further claims the possibility that “patronage” is being extended to “disgruntled individuals” - a reference thought by observers to refer to ethnic Afar rebels. Djibouti says the situation amounts to a “prelude to war”. Another round of talks between US facilitator Anthony Lake, Addis Ababa and Asmara began last week, with all sides maintaining silence on progress, if any.