NAIROBI, Kenya -- Eritrea and Ethiopia have reached a deal that would end a two-year border war that has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides, a spokesman for the Eritrean president said Monday.
The countries will sign a treaty Dec. 12 in Algiers, Yemane Gebremeskel said by telephone from the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki received a formal invitation over the weekend from Ethiopian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to attend the signing ceremony, he said.
It was not immediately possible to obtain comment from Ethiopia authorities.
Ethiopian and Eritrean military officers met over the weekend in Nairobi with officials of the 4,500-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission that is deploying along the border between the two countries in the Horn of Africa.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Ethiopia and Eritrea later this week to review the peacekeeping operation.
The war over the 620-mile border broke out in May 1998 when Eritrea, which had gained independence from Ethiopia five years earlier after three decades of guerrilla warfare, moved into what Ethiopians considered their territory.
The border between Eritrea, a Pennsylvania-sized country on the Red Sea coast, and Ethiopia, its much larger landlocked neighbor to the south, has never been formally outlined.
The border war intensified after Ethiopia launched a sweeping offensive into Eritrean territory last May, forcing some 1 million Eritreans to flee at a time when a regional drought threatened hundreds of thousands of lives.
The two countries signed an agreement to a cease hostilities in June, in Algiers. Algeria, the Organization of African Unity and President Clinton's special envoy, Anthony Lake, have been mediating peace talks.
Gebremeskel said the Eritreans were satisfied that there were adequate provisions in the agreement to investigate the causes of the war, to formally mark the border and to establish a commission to hear claims for compensation for war damages.
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