Eritrean Rebels, Ethiopians Meet in Yemen for Peace Talks
SAN’A, North Yemen (AP) _ Ethiopian officials met with four of the five major Eritrean rebel groups on Monday for peace talks aimed at ending Africa’s longest civil war.
While the main guerrilla faction did not attend the meeting in this North Yemenese capital, officials hope the talks will develop into an overall peace conference involving all factions.
At the opening meeting Sunday night at the North Yemen Foreign Ministry in San’a, both sides stressed their desire to end the guerrilla war with a lasting political settlement. They then went into closed session.
Shewandani Yalta, a member of the Politburo of Ethiopia’s ruling Labor Party, led a 14-member delegation to the talks sponsored by North Yemen, a country facing Ethiopian on the other side of the Red Sea.
In attendance were rebel leaders from the Eritrean Liberation Front, the ELF-Revolutionary Council, the ELF-National Council and the ELF-Unified Organization.
The Moslem-dominated groups claim to represent half the disparate rebel forces fighting for autonomy for Ethiopia’s northern province since 1962.
Former President Jimmy Carter arranged talks between the leading Eritrean Popular Liberation Front and Ethiopian authorities in Atlanta last year and then this year in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Front, which was not attending the talks in North Yemen, launched a new offensive in February and recently captured the port of Mussawa.
No one at the new talks has pointed to any basis for an agreement, although there is a U.N. resolution calling for Eritrean self-rule.
An Eritrean source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ″The main thing is to decide whether to continue negotiations or not, and then possible solutions will be laid out.″
The San’a meeting is the second between the four smaller Eritrean groups and the Ethiopians. The first, mediated by the East African neighbor Sudan, was held in Khartoum in March and April 1989.