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Ethiopians, Eritreans Rebels Agree To Seek Peace

February 23, 1991

Undated (AP) _ WASHINGTON (AP) - Representatives of Ethiopia and its secessionist province of Eritrea made little progress during talks in Washington toward settling a 30-year-old civil war, an Ethiopian official said Friday.

However, negotiators did agree to work toward terminating the conflict, the U.S. State Department said.

″They’ve seen that it’s impossible to come to a settlement by military means,″ said Herman Cohen, assistant secretary of state for Africa. Cohen mediated two days of discussions between representatives of the opposing groups.

Eritrean rebels have fought to create for themselves a separate homeland in Ethiopia’s northernmost province. The bitter civil war has aggravated widespread famine.

Merid Bekela, the Ethiopian vice minister of information, said the Washington talks produced no cease-fire agreement.

″Skirmishes are going on,″ he said.

He said the Ethiopian government had proposed broad autonomy for Eritrea in a federal system, but the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front was insistent on an independence referendum.

Bekela said he was disappointed that more progress had not been made.

The Ethiopian government delegation was led by Ashagre Yigletu, a deputy prime minister. Isaias Afweki, secretary-general of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, was lead negotiator for his group.

Attempts to reach the rebel negotiators for comment were unsuccessful.

Cohen said he hopes another meeting can be held in March.

However, he said, other rebel factions that have not been previously included in the talks may have to be brought in eventually.

Eritrean rebel representatives did agree on the importance of continued relief and other humanitarian efforts, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.

Relief efforts have been hampered because fighting forces from each side had refused to allow food deliveries to the other. However, Cohen said, both sides have cooperated for the last two months.

The New York-based Eritrean Relief Committee issued an appeal Friday for stepped to food aid to the area, saying more than 2 million people in Eritrea had ″entered a critical famine situation.″

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